Glendale, California (by Gedstrom, taken from Forest Lawn, in Wikipedia)

The Growing Housing Affordability Crisis in Glendale

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By Monique Svazlian Tallon

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

Glendale, California, has grown into one of the largest Armenian communities outside of Yerevan. The Glendale City Council, which is four-fifths Armenian American, recently voted to rename Maryland Street to “Artsakh Street” in acknowledgment of the city’s rich Armenian-American population. Sadly, that same city council has taken no meaningful action to address the city’s affordable housing crisis, leaving tens of thousands of its own community vulnerable to displacement.

Walking down Brand Avenue in downtown Glendale, one can’t help but notice the sudden glut of luxury apartments all cheerfully advertising vacancies. Over the last three years, dozens of these developments have been greenlit and built adding thousands of units to the city. However, only a small fraction of those have been designated as affordable housing units, while the majority have a starting price of upwards of $2,500 for a one-bedroom apartment. The same “luxury-only” construction priority is seeping into South Glendale, home to many Armenians and working families.

As the number of new developments rise, so do the rents. Recently, the 63-unit apartment building located at 1377 E. Windsor Ave. in Glendale was sold to Champion Real Estate, which also owns a rent-controlled building in Hollywood which it plans to turn into a luxury housing development. One Armenian resident, a mother of two small children, saw her rent skyrocket from $1,400 to $2,200 overnight. On top of that, she describes the building as completely neglected, with termites, plumbing issues, broken windows, rotten appliances and other problems that property management has chosen to ignore.

This is just one example out of hundreds of residents who have complained of $800-$1,000 rent hikes in apartment buildings all over Glendale. Hayk Makhmuryan, a volunteer with the Glendale Tenants Union which was formed to address the growing housing crisis, says “Affordable housing is a human right. We at the Glendale Tenants Union believe this is the number one issue impacting our community right now and we are not going to rest until we pass an ordinance that establishes rent control in Glendale.”

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Neighboring cities like Hollywood or West Los Angeles have rent control laws on the books that cap rent hikes to three percent per year, but Glendale has no such regulation. It also does not have a Rental Board, so individual tenants or even whole buildings that are victims of price gouging have no recourse or means of defense. This puts vulnerable members of the community – working families, recent immigrants, and senior citizens – at considerable risk. “We have spoken to hundreds of Armenians and other minority communities in Glendale who are moving out of the city because they can no longer afford to live here. It is absolutely devastating to the rich diversity that has been unique to Glendale,” says Mike Van Gorder of the Glendale Tenants Union.

To combat this crisis, there is a new ordinance that is being proposed called the Fair Rent Stabilization Act designed to cap rents at a four-percent increase per year and establish a rental board in Glendale. The voter-led initiative process includes gathering 10,500 signatures to force the City Council to include this initiative on the ballot in the next voting cycle. These petitions were due August 6. While the City Council does have the authority to add this to their agenda and pass the ordinance outright if they so choose, they have thus far done nothing to help protect their constituents.

“We are committed to showing up every week to City Council meetings to put pressure on this City Council to adopt rent control. We will not stop until we prevail,” says Mr. Makhmuryan.

If you would like to get involved with the Glendale Tenants Union, visit their Facebook page or their website at  http://glendaletenants.org/

Topics: housing
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