Alhambra housing troubles worsen as coronavirus pandemic continues

Photo+depicts+a+luxury+apartment+building+in+Alhambra.

Rental prices in newer buildings such as 88 at Alhambra Place can range from more than $2,269 for a 525-square-foot apartment to $3,145 for a 1,200-square-foot apartment. Photo by Vanessa Wyatt.

Vanessa Wyatt, Community News Reporter

Alhambra resident Laura Linares was barely making ends meet before the pandemic.

Now that she has been laid off from her job as an input coordinator, the situation is dire.

She told her apartment manager about being laid off.

“I’m not sure how long things are going to go. It might get worse,” she said.

“OK. Good luck,” the manager replied.

Linares said she doesn’t know what she’ll do.

“Literally, my paycheck alone after taxes was really only enough to cover my rent,” she said.

Unlike other cities in Los Angeles County such as Santa Monica, Inglewood and West Hollywood that have their own rent control laws, Alhambra does not. Considering sixty percent of Alhambra’s housing units are rentals, according to city documents, job losses due to the pandemic are hitting Alhambra residents pretty hard.

Meanwhile, some residents feel city officials aren’t doing enough to help residents with housing affordability. The city of Alhambra held a Facebook Live lottery to select 200 households to dole out federal emergency housing assistance funds, but some residents reported they didn’t know about it while others lacked the internet service or technology to tune in and enter.

At the same time, 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. Meanwhile, just 30, or 8 percent were for low-income units, and only four, or 1 percent of all permits are for “moderate-income” units. 

Visualization created using data obtained from the city of Alhambra

City of Alhambra officials could not be reached for comment despite emails.

Linares moved from Pico Rivera to Alhambra in 2012 to be closer to her boyfriend at the time and because it seemed like a safe city to raise her son in.

When Linares first moved into her current apartment building, she was renting a one bedroom apartment for $950 per month. However, when her son started getting older, she started to look for a two bedroom apartment. In 2017, Linares saw a two-bedroom unit in her building available for $1,100 but it was rented out quickly and the next year, the rent went up to $1,300. It was again rented out before she could secure it. By the time the unit became available in 2019, the rent was $1,600, so Linares took it. However, she has seen the rent increase by $500 over the last three years. 

Linares is currently living off of her tax refund money and also waiting for unemployment to kick in. But it’s unclear how long that will last. She had hoped to qualify for federal emergency housing assistance funds that she heard the city would distribute via a lottery system, but she was unclear how that would work. “I know there is a lottery thing coming up here in Alhambra, where they are going to choose…people to offer financial assistance to,” she said. The lottery happened earlier this month, allowing the city to give 200 grants of $500 each.

However, some residents said they didn’t know about it while others couldn’t participate because they don’t have proper internet service or a device.

When Karina Fuentes and her husband moved to Alhambra about ten years ago  — in part for the excellent schools — she said they got a great deal: $1,400 monthly for a three-bedroom apartment for their family of five. 

 They now pay $1,780 per month because of rent increases over the years but she said they still consider that a really good deal because many people now spend that much for a one-bedroom in Alhambra.

Fuentes said she suspects rent hikes in Alhambra are related to housing prices soaring in neighboring areas such as South Pasadena: “If there was rent control, it would make it better for families.” 

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]