She had two college degrees, one son and no place to live. The former pre-school teacher was homeless in Pasadena for two years. Even before that, she says she lived "from pillar to post." The single mother said she worked at a local private school for 18 years. Nearly all of her teaching income went to pay rent, and her living conditions were bad. Then the school closed, and homelessness followed.
Eventually, the long-time teacher met Michelle White, Executive Director of Affordable Housing Services, in Pasadena. AHS made a difference. A complex owned by the private, non-profit corporation is where the educator now lives. Rent is determined by a sliding scale based on income.
Experts say low-income housing does more than put a roof over people's heads; it changes lives.
"Over 20-thousand households in Pasadena are in need of affordable housing," White said. That number includes the homeless, those paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing, or living in substandard, overcrowded conditions.
Redevelopment agencies were a "hugely important source" of affordable housing, said Anne Lanier Marquit, a community development attorney with Public Counsel. But that ended on February 1, 2012. That's when all redevelopment agencies in California were dissolved to help balance the state's budget. "One billion dollars that used to go to affordable housing every year is gone," said Marquit.
"Over the last seven years, sources of funding for affordable housing development have decreased 93 percent -- pretty tragic," said William Huang, Housing Director for the City of Pasadena. There has been a "50 percent reduction in federal funding in the last two years," said Huang.
Three affordable housing projects were completed in Pasadena during the past year, including the 45-unit Hudson Oaks senior apartments. The award-winning "green building" includes many energy-efficient features designed to save residents money and reduce pollution.
Two other projects are in the pipeline to provide more than 80 rental units, and the city has one more site to develop. "After that, no more projects unless financing is available," said Huang. "Can't build anything without money," he continued.
New efforts are underway in Sacramento that could ease the crisis. Among the bills making their way through the legislature is SB 391, known as the California Homes & Jobs Act of 2013. It would help the situation if lawmakers pass it, according to Housing Director Huang. Pasadena can also compete for some county funds set aside for affordable housing and redevelopment.
Huang, White and Marquit spoke at a recent public forum entitled, "Affordable Housing After The Redevelopment Era: What Now?" The League of Women Voters, Pasadena area, organized the event at The Women's City Club.
City officials say people looking for local housing to fit their needs can check out the website, PasadenaHousingSearch.com.