By Alexandra Applegate
With a unanimous vote at the City Council meeting Tuesday, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Regional Housing Trust (BGPRHT), a joint powers agency, was established to help fund affordable housing projects in the area.
Newly elected Mayor Dan Brotman was also appointed to serve as Glendale’s representative on its board of directors, while Councilwoman Elen Astrayan will be the city’s alternate. They will each serve a two-year term.
The regional trust will act as a tool to build more affordable housing in each respective city for extremely low- to moderate-income households. Altogether, the cities have nearly 3,000 affordable housing units in the development pipeline but lack the funding to make those projects a reality.
“We, obviously, have done our share of the work in building affordable housing,” said outgoing Mayor Ardy Kassakhian. “As we look at what our budget forecasts are, we see that doing more is going to become increasingly difficult with the rising cost of real estate and property. Having an additional boost from the state helps.”
Home prices in Los Angeles County have gone up by more than 33% since the beginning of 2019, according to the California Association of Realtors. And nearly all Angelenos have felt their wallets stretched by inflation in the last year. On top of the strained supply chain and short-staffed crews, it could take hundreds of millions of dollars to build the 400 affordable housing units Glendale laid out in its Housing Element plan.
The housing trust offers a way to coordinate local, regional and state funding and create a strategy that secures money for the community’s specific housing needs. The agency will be able to request private or public funding, invest money, acquire and hold property, rent space and authorize or issue bonds.
“We see it as an ability to stretch a city’s existing funding by maybe funding less at the city level and going to the regional housing trust and asking for supplemental funding. We can save money at the city level,” said Peter Zovak, assistant director of community development. “Or we can ask for money at the regional housing trust that we may not have to compete for at the state level.”
BGPRHT was first created and signed into law by the governor last August, which also appropriated $23 million from the state to start the trust. Now that the joint powers agency has been approved by all three cities, the newly appointed board of directors will decide its bylaws and how to use the initial seed money.
Zovak said staff from the three cities suggested setting aside $2 million for the agency’s staff and splitting the remaining money evenly between cities.
“Then moving forward, they’d somehow come up with some type of formula like first-come-first-serve or a certain amount of money to each city on some proportional basis,” Zovak said. “With the initial seed money, we felt it was important that it not just go into a general pot that could be swallowed up with a couple of projects. We want to make it last and make it fair.”
At one of the first meetings, the BGPRHT’s board — which includes Burbank Councilwoman Nikki Perez and Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo — will also flesh out and formalize the trust’s activities in an Operations Agreement. That’s where the directors will negotiate the share for each city, the criteria for distributing funds for housing projects and how it will be managed and staffed.
Zovak said they expect funding for the first round of projects to be designated by July or August.
First published in the April 8 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.