Community Commentary:

Housing program falls short

January 03, 2009|By Jesse L. Byers

The city’s affordable housing program is an admirable goal, but its execution is far from laudable (“Low-income housing OK’d,” Nov. 19). “Affordable housing” is meant as a euphemism for “low-cost housing,” but I beg to differ from the city’s apparent accepted definition of “low-cost.” A one-bedroom anything at $1,400 isn’t “affordable housing.”

Most of those in the salary range targeted for the city’s affordable housing programs are what the government likes to call “the working poor” — those individuals among us who can actually perform physical labor, get up and go to a job. No one seems to be considering the elderly and disabled.

The maximum amount either one can receive from Social Security is about $2,200 a month, roughly $26,000 a year. But again, that’s the maximum. Most Social Security recipients have to sustain on far less, and all of them have to pay into Medicare at up to $100 or more a month, and that doesn’t even come close to covering all their medical expenses.


According to the most recent census, more than 9% of Burbank residents fall at or below the poverty line. For the record, it’s listed at about $11,000 annual income. Yet the median Burbank apartments rent at $950 for a studio, $1,300 for a one-bedroom, $1,600 for a two-bedroom and $2,550 for a three-bedroom — almost all well above the maximum amount of a living wage.

If those are average, it means you’d have to come up with something far below that to be called low-cost or in city parlance, “affordable.”

So how does the city consider $1,400 as affordable? And how can the people most in need of affordable housing afford any of this when they only make $11,000 a year, or even $26,000?

So here’s the city, giving us yet another overpriced project sprinkled with some feel-good “affordable” units while over the years they’ve given us repeated increases in utility fees and approved project after project, causing the destruction of actual low-cost housing in favor of bigger, more costly developments resulting in the displacement of the disabled, elderly and working poor.

If you do a little searching, you’ll find that some of our city staff members have salaries that exceed six figures a year. So should we be surprised that their concept of “affordable” is a bit skewed?

Yes, the powers that be could have tried to make some actual low-cost housing, but by pretending to do so, they instead created a shining example of a plutocracy. Do us a favor: Do something to give us truly affordable housing. Don’t insult us with these kinds of empty gestures.

 JESSE L. BYERS is a Burbank resident.

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