This citation from staff of course is total and complete bullshit.
From tomorrow night’s very limited council agenda, a request that its members set in stone for the next five years the City of Burbank’s quite horrific Housing Authority policies:
The Burbank Housing Authority (BHA) administers the Section 8 Program (Program) which is funded by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the purpose of providing rent subsidies on behalf of very low income tenants. By implementing this federally-funded Program and maximizing the utilization of the 1,014 vouchers available, the BHA has taken existing units in the private market and made them affordable…
Oh yeah? How many units were made more affordable than before?
Got an answer on that one, staff members?
This is nothing new, this phony claim of theirs. A couple of years ago Dr. Gordon tried to ask some searching questions about how and why staff was going around and buying up true low-income private apartments in town, taking them off the market for extended periods of time to do over-expensive rehabs, and then putting them back on it for much higher rents than before.
A number of good examples of this were in the Lake/Elmwood area, or over on Grismer — such as that huge 80-unit complex of lower-income families who were kicked out to as far away as Palmdale. When the place finally reopened three or four years later (with the City of Burbank as landlord), the new rents were considerably higher than what the older, poorer tenants had been paying.
Even worse, there were fewer available units than before!
Gordon of course got no answer on this, as will no one tomorrow night– if the question even gets asked again, which we doubt. Much of course will be made instead about how wonderful it was that “the government auditors” gave the Authority a prime Grade A review last fall about its bookkeeping work, a boast that will then be used to imply that the Feds also enthusiastically ratified their administrative policies, which they did not.
Unfortunately, the way the system works, local agencies like Burbank have tremendous leeway in how they are allowed to administer their state and federal housing monies. There’s little or no outside review possible about, say, how a city decides just who gets that treasured Section 8 voucher.
Now here’s a couple of questions that should be asked of these people tomorrow night. But of course they won’t be.
1) Is it true that the Cusumanos no longer accept new Section 8 tenancies in their buildings? If so, why not? — especially considering how much they’ve gotten over the years from the people of Burbank.
2) What’s the selection criteria for Section 8 grants? Is it a draw-down list, special qualifying factors, a combination of the two, or what? From the oddball answers that Gordon has gotten over the last few years whenever he’s dared to ask this question, in order to get on Section 8 in Burbank you’ve apparently got to be a disabled veteran of a certain age and with children. Is this in fact the case? If not, who then gets it?
Can we get a STRAIGHT answer on this staff? For once? Other cities tell you ahead of time exactly where you are on their list. Not Burbank.
3) Why does the City of Burbank kick people off the Section 8 eligibility rolls without — like Glendale –giving them some kind of appeal mechanism to get back on? Why are they so mean and unsparing about it? (Keep in mind that this was the same Burbank that just a few years ago made everyone stand in line all throughout Downtown Burbank just to get an application package. Thousands of people.)
4) Why does Burbank insist on buying out these cheap private-sector buildings for rehab in the first place?
5) Every time they buy one of these things, why do they then lie to people (and the council) about how horrible they were, condition wise? — thus justifying the necessity of them doing so. Why do they always do this whenever they’re challenged about their acquisition policies?**
6) How come they got away a few years ago with tipping off one of the Augustine realty interests about a specific building the city wanted to buy over in the Lake/Elmwood area? The Augustines immediately slipped in, bought the place out from under the Authority, then turned around within a week or two and sold it directly to the Authority for a huge middle-man profit.
Even wackier, the specific Augustine family member who did this was also a business partner of the husband of the head of the Housing Authority itself!
** Watch them glom onto the Catalina Street rehab a few years ago in response. Sure, that place was terrible, but it was the exception, not the rule. And most of the current rents they’re charging over there are ridiculously non lower income. These six-figure $$ Burbank staff employees have a screwy idea of just what is considered to be affordable to most people– as well as the meaning of “lower income.”
Catalina is also where staff got one of their friends from the private sector to rehab it instead of going through the proper bidding and advertisement process required of government agencies. As well as properly following the Charter!