The war on affordable housing

South central neighborhood's are notorious for there bad reputation and stigma. Nonetheless, many impoverished families in this community struggle to meet ends meet.

South central neighborhood’s are notorious for there bad reputation and stigma. Nonetheless, many impoverished families in this community struggle to meet ends meet.

Over the last six year’s, the United States has seen a robust shift within the housing market. From 2007 to 2009, the market took a tragic turn when the value of real estate owned by U.S. households fell by nearly $6 trillion. With the fall, many families were left homeless and many already struggling with a low and very-low income. Now with nearly 91% of homeless residents unsheltered, looking for a home or a place to call home seems impossible for the dispossessed Angelino.

“Within LA there has been a drastic change with the house market, especially when it comes to affordable housing,” Los Angeles realtor Steven Veracruz said.

Veracruz added that the housing market within LA has diminished significantly over the past 3 years. Unmoved wages and increasing housing costs have pushed many low-income households’ budgets to a breaking point. With that drastic fall, many families could not pay their mortgages forcing them to look for affordable housing in the area.

According to the Invisible People organization, the median price of a new apartment in Los Angeles in January 2013 was $1,770, which requires an annual income of $70,800 to be affordable. Additionally, the federal government states that paying more than 30 percent of one’s income represents a cost burden leaving insufficient income for other basic needs. With that, the Invisible People website says that the city’s “median rent increased 31 percent from 2000 to 2010 compared to an increase in incomes of just 1.2 percent.”

“As a realtor here [Los Angeles] I can say that I have seen more families selling their homes this past year than any other year.” Veracruz said.

With a surplus of families trying to look for more affordable housing, many say that there is a lack of space and economy to accommodate for families. A California Housing Partnership Corporation (CHPC) analysis of 2006 stated that more than 143,000 new renter households have entered the Los Angeles market since 2006, many because of displacement during the foreclosure crisis.

According to the California Poverty Measure, the poverty rate in Los Angeles County is 27 percent, five percent higher than the poverty rate in California as a whole,

Additionally the 2012 survey done by the CHPC states that there is a shortfall of 490,340 affordable homes available to Los Angeles County’s very low-income and extremely low-income households. With so many hurting families in Los Angeles, a high percentage of these end up in the streets homeless and unsheltered.

Individuals have set up their homes on streets near skid row and South Central.

Individuals have set up their homes on streets near skid row and South Central.

“Nothing is more necessary than to see the residents of Los Angeles thrive and live comfortably,” tenant developer for Los Angeles Norman Isaac said. “Our community needs people who will invest in them by putting aside special housing for them in times of economic need.”

Norman, a community worker who serves alongside the Strategic Actions for a Just Economy organization (SAJE) has agreed to set aside 24 of his 160 planned units for low-income families. This is in hopes to alleviate pressure from families who become displaced or evicted from their homes.

“It is so hard to see families with small children forced to move out of their homes because other companies have decided to buy that land and build bigger houses, which would be sold at a higher market value,” said Organizing Coordinator at SAJE Favian Gonzalez.

The SAJE organization is a community organizer and advocate working on behalf of the residents of South LA. They are responsible for taking “slumlords to court and helping establish land trusts and work to find positive solutions to conflicts between institutions and low-income city residents.”

“Through my time here at SAJE, I can say that I have clearly seen a much larger group of homeless individuals and families due to the crisis of affordable housing,” Gonzalez said. “The gap between low-income families and affordable housing is becoming bigger and bigger and little is being done to ensure a basic need for homeless residents of LA.”

A recent Harvard Joint Center for Housing study elucidates a severe national shortage; more than half of low-income tenants today spend more than half of their income on rent and 21 million people can’t find rental homes within their means. As the value of homes and rental properties have gone up, wages have not been able to reflect those housing inflations. This has caused several low-income and very-low income families left to turn to affordable housing. But what happens when there is not enough affordable housing for the struggling Angelinos?

Mitch O’Farrell, Councilmember of the 13th District and Felipe Fuentes, Councilmember of the 7th District have worked alongside other organizations to end the problem of affordable housing. Although O’Farrell was unable to comment, his Executive Assistant stated “Council member O’Farrell recently passed the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) in order to provide monetary aid for families in search of affordable housing.”

The Department of Housing and Community in Los Angeles states that the AHTF creates “affordable rental housing low and very love income households.” In addition, this fund sets aside the monetary cost of creating new construction of affordable housing or for the “rehabilitation of existing residential structures.”

The view from Union Rescue Mission, only Christian mission established in Los Angeles that shelters homeless individuals.

The view from Union Rescue Mission, only Christian mission established in Los Angeles that shelters homeless individuals.

Additionally, Cano added that O’Farrell has introduced this motion to “develop policy initiatives that could encourage the development of affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, veterans housing, working housing and senior housing.”

“Sometimes we place families in these allocated affordable homes but the state in which these homes are in is at times unlivable,” said Gonzalez.

Six year’s after the housing market, we can see that the value of homes is slowly restoring and leveling out. However, the problem of affordable housing is not only a cause of the fall of the market. Area’s such as Echo Park and Highland Park in Los Angeles are becoming gentrified, a term signifying that cities are being renovated in order to accommodate for the middle and upper-class individual.

Families all over Los Angeles are currently living in area’s where urban inequality has increased alongside the cost of living. According to the website of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, there are “8.5 liquor store per square mile compared to 0.10 large-scale supermarkets per square-mile” in gentrified areas. Additionally, 37% of households in urban areas are overcrowded. Gentrification has not only caused a mass exodus of low-income families to flee their long time homes, but it has also forced families to acquire more than two minimum wage jobs in order to barely survive.

“I see families struggling every day,” said Gonzalez. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to know that I can’t help every family that comes into our office looking for a warm-place to put their child to sleep.”

The debate on gentrification ethics has garnered large-scale conversation. Many argue that displacing families and creating more appealing neighborhoods is damaging for the residents already placed in those locations. However, others favor renovations stating that the improvements help build up Los Angeles and create safer neighborhoods for all.

There is no sign of impoverished community right in the heart of the financial district in Los Angeles.

There is no sign of impoverished community right in the heart of the financial district in Los Angeles.

“Our organization is advocating for the stop of gentrified cities and displaced families. Instead, we advocate for better housing and better care for the already established residents in Los Angeles,” said Gonzalez.

Although the problem of gentrification is worsening, agencies such as the SAJE and efforts from Councilmember O’Farrell are helping alleviate the stress many Angelino families are facing.

“We want families to know that we are here to help them in their time of need,” Commission in the Department of Housing and Community Investment of Los Angeles Patricia Villasenor. “There are different resources many individuals can partake in aside from affordable housing.”

Aside from city help, displaced families can seek additionally aid from government placed programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs (TANF) and SSP-MOE, which is public welfare. According to the 2014 pre-liminary TANF data, as of January 26th, 2015 there have been 537,583 TANF recipients in the state of California for fiscal year 2014. That is just over half of the population in Los Angeles County.

The view from City Hall shows an ariel shot of Downtown Los Angeles. With more than 100 million inhabitants, city leaders advocate for a better living situation.

The view from City Hall shows an ariel shot of Downtown Los Angeles. With more than 100 million inhabitants, city leaders advocate for a better living situation.

“Many low-income undocumented families tend to fear governmental agencies,” sad Villasenor. “But all of our assistance programs offer no documentation of U.S. citizenship or question legal statuses in the United States.”

Now in 2015, more than half of the Angelino population continues to struggle with home inflation, high poverty levels and insufficient working wages. With that, the city continues to see renovations and higher scale edifices surrounded with one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. The lack of affordable housing has had the biggest influence on the increase of people experiencing homelessness.

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Lack of Water Leads to Extreme Measures

Courtesy of the LA Times

Courtesy of the LA Times

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order to cut water use by 25%, many water companies are forced to execute stricter laws and guidelines when it comes to their customers water consumption.

Many families throughout California, such as that of Orange County resident Joone Lopez, are unsure if they can actually accomplish that cut.

According to the LA Times, Several years ago, the district cracked down on heavy water users, sending inspectors to police the community and issue hundreds of fines. But after about 18 months of loud protests, the district relented. Community members throughout the state should expect rapid shifts with their water companies and water consumption. With a serious drought, the state has looked to these companies to enforce and limit water usage.

Residents should expect fines and higher billing for water consumption and overuse of it. Many individuals could say that the state is taking things to the next level by enforcing such harsh measures. Californian’s are notorious for their overconsumption and care free attitudes. However, government officials have stated that this is one of the worst droughts the state has ever seen.

Perhaps our mentalities should shift to a more conscientious state. A shorter shower and closing the facet when brushing your teeth can bring the state one step closer to surpassing the drought.

President tackles consumer protection and economy

Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Families all across the nation have recently sought out financial help through venues such as payday lending stores in order to stabilize the wealth prior to pay day. On March 26th, President Barack Obama addressed this issue in a speech on consumer protection and the nation’s economy at the Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama.

Those gathered where able to hear about accomplishments achieved thus far during Obama’s term as president as well as the new budget unveiled by Republicans in Congress this past month.

In regards to consumer protection, the President advises the nation to “educate themselves on their options” before debt accumulates. With that, Obama acknowledged the existence of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which was created to “serve as an independent consumer watchdog.”

According to Obama’s speech, he stated that the organization has “put over $5 billion back into the pockets of more than 15 million families” and that it is moving towards tackling the most abusive practices involving payday loans and title loans. However, the CFPB website does not keep records nor advertises such statistics. Similarly, many families in the United States are still facing financial hardship due to debts by payday lending.

With that, the President made it a key point to highlight the decrease of unemployment rates as well note the five-year growth within private sector jobs. Although both points true for the Obama administration, many of the statistics mentioned were calculated at the peak of each year.

“When I first came into office, the unemployment rate was at 10%. Now, it’s at 5.5%,” Obama said.

His striking number proves true in comparison to 2009’s worst month and 2014’s best month for unemployment rates.

Throughout the remainder of the speech, Obama highlights the new budget announced by the Republicans and the plans projected repercussions.

“It would cut investments in education the lowest level since the year 2000.”

However, Representative Ken Buck of Colorado stated that “the plan hopes to keep the Pell Grant program” and make it “permanently sustainable.”

President Obama is set to continue discussion on the economy and the new budget during his weekly briefings.

President Barack Obama- Birmingham, Alabama: Analysis

On March 26th, President Barack Obama gave a speech in Alabama in regards to consumer protection and the economy. The President makes strong claims regarding his accomplishments for the nation throughout his presidency. While most claims are true, many statements are fluffed up in order to an added level of hype to his term as President. Taken out of their true context, many of the claims the President makes seem greater than they really are. Compared to other presidencies and situations during those terms, Obama’s accomplishments can be seen as miniscule and even over exaggerated. Nonetheless, the majority of his statements are accurate claims that have indeed helped advance the well being of the nation.

Courtesy of C-SPAN.

Courtesy of C-SPAN.

On accomplishments during Obama’s term:
Before the speech commences, NAACP member Ollie Parham shared her struggles with debt and her vicious cycle that started with payday loans. Since 2013, Parham has served as the Economic Chair person for the Alabama state conference NAACP. With that, President Obama was introduced and opened up his speech with many accomplishments acquired within the job creation in private sectors. According to President Obama’s speech, the administration is on a 60-month streak, that’s a five-year streak, of private job sector creation. However, viewers have to take into account the fact that his term was acquired right after the recession that took place under the Bush administration. On June 14th, President Obama acknowledged that he created more private-sector jobs in the past 27 months than President Bush did “during the entire seven years before the recession.” Nonetheless, his term did achieve a five-year growth within private sector jobs but sounds more glamorous than it really easy because of the low economic level the nation was in.
Additionally, Obama states that when he first came into office in 2009, the unemployment rate was at 10% and that it is now at 5.5%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, these facts are true but only when percentages are compared in October of 2009 to October of 2015. Although employment rates have dropped significantly throughout Obama’s term, we can acknowledge that they have not been as drastic as 5% decreases year-round. In February of 2009 the rate was at 8.3% while in February of 2015 it was at 6.7%. With that, Forbes magazine and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that there are more job openings now than at any time since 2001. Obama also states that wages are on the rise again. As we saw last year, minimum wage increased from $8 to $9 and conversations are ongoing in regards to raising it once more.
With a rise in employment, President Obama affirms that Ohio School graduation rate is up at an all time high. According to reports provided by the Ohio Department of Education this proves true for the state.
On the economy and middle-class tax payers:
President Obama transitions to talk about the Republicans in Congress unveiling their new budget that would hand out new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. According to the New York Times, this new budget would allow a balancing of the federal budget as well as a 10-year blueprint for taxes and spending. The plan also allows for $1 trillion in savings from cuts to low-income programs such as food stamps and welfare. Additionally the plan calls for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. President Obama added “it would cut investments in education to the lowest level since the year 2000.” Although specific cuts are planned for the education budget, Republicans are keeping the Pell Grant program making it “permanently sustainable” according to Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado.
Additionally Obama states, “They [Republicans] say the reason they wanted this budget is because they have to eliminate deficits and debt.” However, the House of Congress states that their primary reasoning for calling this budget plan is to not only eliminate debts, but to also layout a blueprint to achieve sustainability.
To contradict that claim, the President highlights the fact that the deficit has come down two-thirds since he has been President. Although a true calculation according to White House analyst, the claim is not as exciting as it sounds.

Courtesy of Politifact.com.

Courtesy of Politifact.com.

According to Politifact.com, the deficit swelled back in 2009, which was the start of his presidency. The huge jump from 2008 to 2009 was a result of the massive stimulus program to jump start the cratering economy. With that, many analysts would argue that Obama was to some extent, responsible for the economic growth experienced over the years but cannot take full credit for it.
On the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
In addition to new budget plans by the Republicans, the 44th president announced that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was created under his presidency in order to serve as an independent consumer watchdog. According to him, the organization has put over $5 billion back into the pockets of more than 15 million families and is now taking “new steps towards cracking down on some of the most abusive practices involving payday loans and title loans.” According to the CFPB website, they aim to help consumers in the market. Although I could not find a direct quantity of how much money they have recollected back to consumers, many news articles as well as the White House, attest to the statistic president Obama acknowledged. Additionally, on the same day the President gave this speech, the CFPB proposed regulations to rein in short-term payday, as cited by the President.
Miscellaneous
Lastly, there was one interesting claim that Obama made in regards to Payday Loan stores and their high usage in Alabama. The President stated that there are four times as many payday loan operations in Alabama than there are McDonald’s.

Courtesy of CSUN.

Courtesy of CSUN.

I was not a big believer about this but a recent study down by California State University Northridge shows that there are 1,177 payday lenders and 210 McDonald venues in the state.

Although slightly off, President Obama makes it clear that payday lending is out of control and hindering many low-income families nationwide.
President Obama had many great facts but tended to over exaggerate and over emphasize points. He needs more concise facts and new points to bring up in his speeches. Overall, a fairly truthful man.

 

UC’s continue to change after presidents death

Last week, former president of University of California systems and UC Irvine chancellor Jack W. Peltason died at 91. With a sad departure from the figure, many officials are advancing the conversation of higher education with the structures of California.

UC Merced introduced its 5-year to increase student population plan to UC reagents. Additionally, UC Berkley is looking to build a satellite campus on its 150 unused acres it owns near the Richmond waterfront.

Not only are school officials involved in the conversation, but state Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) attracted attention for proposing a new UC Campus Silicon Valley or Los Angeles. Gatto’s legislation would push for $50 million for land acquisition and building. In a recent interview, Gatto stated that there is “no better way to spend our money that through higher education.”

Many officials are talking about ways to improve the current systems and structures placed in UC’s today. Others say that planning on building new campuses does not benefit the student population. The conversation has also focused on adding more night and weekend classes as well as adding online ones.