More affordable housing on the way in Alhambra

Expanding affordable housing options dominates recent city council meetings

A photo of council members sitting around a long U-shaped table.

Screenshot of Alhambra city council meeting in October.

Vanessa Wyatt, Community News Editor

Alhambra is taking action to offer residents more affordable housing.

Last month, it approved an agreement with nonprofit housing developers American Family Housing and National Community Renaissance to build a 50-unit affordable housing project at 2nd and Main streets.

All but one unit will be for low- and very-low income housing. The city plans to subsidize about $5.8 million out of the $27.8 million needed for the project, according to the agenda report. “The City’s contribution will be made in the form of a land sale and a construction loan,” according to the report.

The city council also approved issuing a request for proposals for a second affordable housing project.

That project, on Chapel Avenue, was discussed in detail during a city council meeting in October, when officials approved removing a restriction on the Chapel Avenue land, which is currently being used as a parking lot. That paved the way for allowing affordable housing to be developed.

At the Oct. 12 meeting, council members unanimously approved a change to a 1999 agreement between the city of Alhambra, the now-dissolved Alhambra Redevelopment Agency and Hillcrest Development Partners, LLC.

“[I’m] happy to see this is on the agenda,” council member Ross J. Maza said at the October meeting. “I know that we talked about this as a possibility of being a project in lieu of 2nd and Main. Now, it is going to be in addition to 2nd and Main. There’s a lot of possibilities here.” 

Vice Mayor Katherine Lee agreed it was a great move.

“I’m glad that we were able to locate a second site for affordable housing units which we desperately need in the city,” Lee said.

The 2021-2029 Housing Element Update of the Alhambra General plan was also discussed during the meeting. 

Chris Blackney, a director from Econorthwest, a consulting firm that deals with housing, led the presentation. Based on Econorthwest’s projections, Alhambra would need to add an additional 6,808 units over the next eight years — a significant increase from the goal of 1,492 units in the previous cycle.

After the presentation, Lee had a question regarding the allocation of housing types.

“About 60% of our residents in Alhambra are renters. That clearly means that most of them cannot afford to purchase a home in Alhambra because of the cost. So, I’m a little surprised that the allocation of above-moderate income housing is at 43%…It seems to me that it should lean the other way. The higher percentage should be allocated to low income, or at least moderate income percentage. What is the allocation based on?” she asked. It “doesn’t look like it’s based on the median income of Alhambra.” 

Blackney said that it’s “based in part on the existing allocation of households within the community, and I can get some documentation for the council on the exact methodology, but on the top of my head, I don’t have the information to go through that whole process right now.” 

The city’s moves the past year or so reflects a major change compared to years past. The vast majority — 326, or 90 percent — of 360 total permits approved for new units in Alhambra from 2013 to 2018 were for “above moderate” income levels, according to city of Alhambra records obtained by the University Times early this year

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]