Thursday, April 19, 2007

AHB in the Dena: Bunny Bonanza

Lost in the upheaval over recent runoff elections, the infamous Affordable Housing Bunny has been bounding all over Pasadena. A week and a half ago, the City Council took several steps to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. Sitting on a $15 million pile of cash, the city has no small amount of resources to throw at this problem. The list of proposed actions (ably tallied by Molly Okeon at the Star-News), includes:

  • Waiving developer's fees for projects with 30% work-force housing.
  • Stashing $2 million for the "extension and expansion of affordable housing covenants"
  • 100,000 more bones for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program
  • Creating a Homeless Prevention Program
  • Putting away $5 million to acquire and refurb multifamily housing
Let's clarify some of those. "Work-force housing" is another name for "sweet perk of being a city employee." So, if you are a Pasadena police officer, firefighter, nurse or teacher, you get discounted housing. So, developers can avoid a punitive tax if they give these folks a break on the rent. Hey, we want only the best teaching at our Pasadena schools (*cough cough* Kevin Williams). Too bad if you want to live in Pasadena while teaching at a real high needs school in Compton. No break for you.

The "Homeless Prevention Program" makes the homeless sound like a disease. And while trying to prevent the homeless from ever being such is a laudable goal, this program is just another name for rental assistance for those in dire straits (unless I'm reading the agenda wrong: it "would provide immediate assistance to households who are on the cusp of losing their shelter"). The best part, though, is that it's part of the "10 Year Strategy to End Homelessness." Good to know we only need wait a decade and the homeless problem will be all wrapped up...color me skeptical.

And let's all stop and just think about "affordable housing covenants." God made a covenant with Abraham. Christ at the Last Supper did the same. And folks from an earlier era often speak of the "marriage covenant." Most would consider it not a word to be used lightly (are we now wedded to providing subsidized housing to everyone who wants to live in Pasadena, but can't afford it?). More ominously, as any good Master Chief knows, the Covenant is an alien species bent on destroying us all.



For good measure, the council also agreed to let Habitat for Humanity put affordable units on the Desederio Army Reserve Center (somehow, the city proposal to put an arts and environment center on the property had become "controversial"). You'd think affordable housing folks would be singing the Hallelujah chorus.

Amazingly, the immediate response of housing advocates was criticism (documented by Joe Piasecki at the Weekly). The council had taken up the issue too suddenly, the public had only been given two measly weeks to read the 100-page "Housing Agenda for Action," and whoa, whoa, whoa, what about the long-term vision? Or so the complaints ran.

Of course, they didn't even address the fact that all this affordable housing talk is a bunch of hooey, at least according to this letter-writer. Apparently, affordable housing isn't...well, affordable.

Federal, state and local law define "affordable housing" - that is, with "affordable" meaning below a given percentage of the local county median income for a given household size - with separate percentage ranges for moderate, low and very low annual income.

But the costs defined by this definition are not what many people would think they could afford. And even when rents or mortgages are in this range, it is often not considered "affordable housing" due to lack of government control and lack of government subsidies.

But don't worry, not all is lost. Even if the city council is throwing money at this problem without a "strategic plan" (but they have one for homelessness!), and even though the people who need affordable housing can't afford it, at least you have MASH. Suicide may be painless, but sometimes maintenance isn't, so just give Hawkeye a call.

2 comments:

Aaron Proctor said...

Why doesn't the City Council pair off into teams and play Capture The Flag on Halo - whoever wins, gets to pass their version of the AHB?

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