Maybe we spoke too soon last week about this new hire being different from the rest, because a little hint of the future came out of yesterday’s Leader article about the selection…
Additionally, [Ron] Davis said there needs to be responsible growth in the city, stating that Burbank had not created additional housing in about five years, even though businesses continue to attract employees to the region.
“I think our vacancy rate for residual is about 0.5%, so if you go looking for an apartment in Burbank, it’s going to be tired and expensive, if you find anything,” he said.
One-half percent? Where are we living again?
We knew there was no way in hell that Burbank had a vacancy rate this low, and sure enough, it’s phony. The latest USC-Casden study says that Burbank and Glendale have a combined vacancy rate of 3.3 percent. Not 1/2. Factoring in Glendale’s increased apartment availability compared to Burbank, we’re willing to cut Burbank’s rate down to 2-3 percent on its own.
But even this is being more than generous to the Big Growth boosters, because these stats are all self-reported from the landlords; the same local landlords who have every reason in the world to want to highball their figures in order to keep justifying their constant rent increases (“No, it’s the market that’s making us do it! There’s too much demand!”)
And if they’re developers as well — which most of the big ones are these days — then trafficking in these extreme figures also provides them with a great excuse to build more apartments. Which “responsible growth” guys like Davis then use to justify building more apartments.
Look, let’s cut to the quick. We can tell that this nonsense is going to keep coming up over the next year or so, or at least until those 1000+ downtown units get built, and so let’s make it real simple right now:
- Burbank has plenty of apartments already. Well over half the population are tenants. What this means is that Burbank has no moral, ethical, legal, or economic obligation to be providing more apartments to anyone. We’re overburdened as it is, and it’s total cant for anyone to suggest otherwise, especially as some kind of social imperative.
- Most of the kind of jobs that Burbank is attracting don’t pay the kind of money you need to get your own place in town, and Davis is completely wrong to imply the exact opposite. Those few new occupations that do pay enough don’t find the kind of employees who’d want to live in a place like Burbank. They’d much rather live in the hipper Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Studio City or other LA neighborhoods. So let’s get real.
- If the Burbank City Council was truly concerned about affordability then they would have already put into place mandatory set-asides on new construction. But they’re not. Instead, at best we have a process where developers can buy out their affordability obligations by contributing money to a redevelopment slush fund that the city controls. The city then uses this money to buy up older and more affordable apartment buildings for conversion into one of their “Housing Authority” projects — which end up costing the new tenants up to 40 percent (or more) than the original landlord ever got for the old units. Dr. Gordon screams about this perverse situation all the time.
So don’t believe all this pro-growth propaganda, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s bogus. Burbank already has lots of apartments, “tired” or not. And who else but a $300,000 a year man would refer to a garden court or a 1930’s duplex as somehow enfeebled or substandard? Or even a late 50’s building?
Look, here’s something the Burbank City Council can do right away if they truly want to increase the number of potential tenancies in town, especially affordable. They can do what New York City does.
New York City has on its books a mandatory roommate-allowance law that requires all landlords to accept one roommate of the leaseholder’s choosing and at any time during the tenancy. What this means is that the original tenant/leaseholder can have anyone they want as a roommate — subject to their responsibility — and the landlord is not allowed to block it or retaliate against the leaseholder in any way. They don’t even have to know about the joint occupancy unless they specifically ask.
It’s a great law, and even better, it works.
Allowing ALL tenants to have roommates would drastically increase the amount of affordability-space in Burbank, and it would especially fit the needs of the kind of lower-wage employees that Burbank is attracting these days (like let’s get real on that one, Davis). Right now Burbank landlords can and do discriminate against or even block the acquisition of chosen roommates, and it’s not fair or justified. And if and when you do happen to get a roommate, most of these Burbank landlords will then immediately raise the rent on you! Which of course defeats the whole purpose of getting a roommate to help share costs.
You think the City of Burbank is truly serious about wanting to create more apartment space for people? If so then there’s more than one way to go about solving the problem. But of course, this sudden concern about “tenants” and “affordability” is really about justifying more lucrative Big Growth in town. So we won’t be expecting too much on the sincerity front from these people any time soon.