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Affordable housing in Burbank enters a 'very different era'

Without its redevelopment agency, city relies heavily on dwindling federal home grants to meet community needs.

June 25, 2012|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
(Times Community…)

Stripped of its redevelopment funds and faced with ever dwindling federal grants, Burbank is having to rethink its approach to affordable housing.

The city recently reserved roughly $402,000 for future affordable housing projects, bumping its total to $1.2 million — far less than the $8 million or so officials typically had to work with each, said Ruth Davidson-Guerra, assistant community development director.

“Never before have we been faced with this kind of challenge,” she said.

There are currently 1,420 affordable units in Burbank and Davidson-Guerra estimates that no large-scale projects will be on tap any time soon to add to that number.

The savings the city holds in reserve will most likely be spent on restoring existing units instead, she said.

“That’s not the ideal,” Davidson-Guerra said. “Even in our community, the need seems to outpace the supply.”

The loss of redevelopment revenues that had been used to support affordable housing projects has been compounded by the shrinking pool of federal grant dollars, officials say.

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This year, Burbank received $358,600 in federal home grant funds — a 53% decrease compared to what was received last year.

“It’s very much a different era,” Davidson-Guerra said.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature this year dissolved local redevelopment agencies, redirecting their property taxes to help fill a multibillion-dollar budget gap. The move effectively stripped cities of a vital funding source to help pay for subsidized affordable housing projects.

The federal home grants had been a relatively small part of the funding mix used to build affordable housing, but now — even as they dry up — “they’re so critical,” Davidson-Guerra said.

While the current funding has not yet been set aside for any specific housing proposal, Judith Arandes of the Burbank Housing Corporation said the money will support a small-scale project.

“We’re hoping that we can come to the table with a specific project within three or four months,” Arandes said.
 

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