Assisted Housing’s Imperfect Storm: Plenty of Money, but Fewer Places to Spend It

City expects $3 million-plus in HUD funds in 2020, along with local funds, but is stymied in locating affordable land and housing

Published : Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | 5:48 AM

Money can’t solve everything, it turns out.

The City of Pasadena expects enough money to make substantial inroads into housing local homeless and low-to moderate-income families next year but can’t find affordable, available land or rooms on which to spend it.

“It’s not money, it’s finding room to build, and land to build on, and rooms for the homeless,” Housing Director Bill Huang explained to the City Council Monday.

Currently there is an “unprecedented amount of money” set aside for housing throughout the Southern California region from various legislative measures as well as Federal funds, said Huang.

The number of homeless in Pasadena has reportedly decreased from last year, too, but the lower numbers don’t make the task any easier.

Huang told the Council that an inability to find housing for those in need has created a waitlist of more than two years.

A major problem is that the payment allocations set by the funders are too small to cover the cost of Pasadena-priced housing.

Mayor Terry Tornek told the Council Monday evening that the City needs to work with the Federal government to “make Section 8 plausible,” since the housing vouchers are often not sufficient to actually pay for housing in Pasadena.

Tornek also pointed to the need for the City to create affordable housing where and when it can.

He reminded the Council of his plan to convert the City-owned YWCA Building in Civic Center Plaza into permanent supportive housing. The historic Julia Morgan-designed structure was, ironically, originally slated for conversion to a luxury boutique hotel in 2017.

“This requires a community effort,” housing activist Ed Washatka told the City Council Monday.

The City of Pasadena is an “entitlement jurisdiction” that receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to invest in local communities, according to the Housing Department’s 2019-2020 action plan, which was approved by the City Council Monday.

The funds are provided through programs like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), the Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME), and Emergency Solutions Grants Program (ESG) entitlement programs.

All of the funds are designed to assist low- to moderate income (LMI) individuals and families.

As Huang told the Council, “We just have to stay on this, and keep our foot on the gas.”