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The Elephant in the Room of Pasadena Affordable Housing
PasadenaNow.com ^ | June 23, 2007 | Wayne Lusvardi

Posted on 06/23/2007 2:48:08 PM PDT by WayneLusvardi

The Elephant in the Room of Pasadena Affordable Housing

When it comes time to hand out awards for affordable housing in Pasadena who should get the most notoriety?

a) Danny Bakewell, Black housing developer and activist b) Jill Shook, activist and author of "Making Housing Happen: A Faith Based Approach" c) Mayor Bill Bogaard, the force behind inclusionary housing law d) Marvin Schacter, low income housing activist, former State Aging Commission member e) Patricia Duff Tucker, Director, Neighborhood Housing Services f) The private landlord elephant in the room

The phrase "elephant in the room" is an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored. It is based on the fact that an elephant in a small room would be impossible to overlook. There is an elephant in the room of affordable housing in Pasadena. It all those landlords and property owners who provide more than 85% of the low and moderate income income housing in the citywithout any fanfare or recognition.

Consider the following real life affordable housing anecdotes of which this author is aware of in Pasadena (names and places changed for confidentiality purposes):.

Developer Provides Free Housing for Last 10 Years

James is a real estate developer in Pasadena. He just recently sold several hundreds of acres of land for a bundle of money which it took him over five years to assemble in North Los Angeles County. James has owned a house near the 210-Freeway in north west Pasadena since the 1970's. He bought it as a speculative investment hoping to cash in on the then new 210-Freeway completion by converting it to a gas station site. However, he never was able to get favorable re-zoning of the property for such a commercial use.

Since the 1970's he has rented the property out to a Black tenant we shall call "Clint," who graduated from PCC and is occupied as a carpenter. The last 10 years James has provided Clint free rent despite that the property is often littered with old automobiles and junk which are a nuisance. You will never read about James in PSN editor Larry Wilson's gadfly weekly column in the local newspaper because our activist editor is too busy hobnobbing with elites at the Caltech Athaneum to run into James to hear his story

Property Owner Provides Students with Subsidized Rent

An owner of an old large house in northeast Pasadena we shall call "Bill" renovated it in 1994 in order to take care of his elderly parents. After his parents died he had no use for the first floor of the building but was still saddled with mortgage payments on the loan to renovate the home. So he leased the fully furnished first floor to five students from the Art Center College of Design for $500 each per month. Rent includes free trash pick up, free high speed DSL internet connection, free use of a washer/dryer, free large screen TV, and fully furnished.

Additionally, Bill rents out part of his yard to the business next door for parking. Bill uses the parking rents to reduce the utility bills for the students. The rents barely cover the monthly loan payments and maintenance expenses. Bill makes no profit on his investment. Bill pays the property taxes and homeowners and renters insurances. But such subsidized rents will never show up in the U.S. Census. Nor will Bill receive any awards for providing affordable housing.

Real Estate Broker Provides Subsidized Apartment Units

Jan is a real estate broker and teaches real estate courses at Pasadena City College. She also owns several small apartment buildings in Pasadena. As part of her college teaching she imparts that she provides one subsidized unit in each apartment building out of a sense of moral obligation, not legal compulsion. She has done so for years and seeks no acclaim for doing so. But she feels it important to teach her college students that they should provide low income people housing wherever feasible. Jan won't be receiving any awards from the Pasadena Chapter of Neighborhood Housing Services at their annual awards dinner for her commitment to providing affordable housing. Nor will Jan get a "Broker of the Year" award from the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors for teaching her students about voluntary affordable housing.

These are just three quick sample stories about private persons providing no-cost and low-cost housing in Pasdena without the coercion of government, tax incentives, or Section 8 landlord subsidies. How many more stories like this are out there in Pasadena? There is no way to tell because the landlords who provide such low cost housing do not want anyone to know it.

Contrary to the myth that only government provides affordable housing, the private real estate sector provides about 85% of the low and moderate income housing in Pasadena. When invisible private affordable housing is included, such as the vignettes above, the private sector might provide 90% of the affordable housing in Pasadena. But "good news is no news" to the mainstream media even when someone realizes the American Dream of homeownerhip (see here):

This reminds me of one of those elephant jokes that goes like this: Q: What did the newspaper editor say when the private affordable housing elephant walked into the newsroom? A: Nothing! He didn't notice.

© Copyright 2006 by Pasadena Now.com


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: affordablehousing; elephant

1 posted on 06/23/2007 2:48:10 PM PDT by WayneLusvardi
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