Affordable Housing Shortage Needs Long-Term Solution
Tuesday, January 5, 2017 – by BILL BOYARSKY
The growing shortage of affordable rental housing in Los Angeles is reaching crisis proportions among a group too often ignored — poor, elderly Jews fearing eviction or unaffordable rent increases.
They’ve found the plight of older people is not what we want to imagine. We’d like to think of seniors surrounded by supportive family, bolstered by Medicare, savings and investments, secure in the last years of their lives. Rather, their lives too often fit the description attributed to the late actress Bette Davis: “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Death and estrangement may have taken spouses, children and other relatives. Illness and medical bills, beyond Medicare limits, may have drained savings, which also may have been looted by crooked insurance sales people, greedy relatives or unethical financial advisers. Many are disabled, receiving monthly disability payments that have not been adjusted for inflation for more than 30 years. Some are Holocaust survivors, never fully recovered from their terrible experiences. The poor are hardest hit, of course. But others feel the strain of living on fixed incomes, which may have seemed sufficient on retirement day but now are not.
The rental housing shortage has a special resonance for Jewish seniors who often want to live in Jewish neighborhoods, close to friends, synagogues and kosher stores.
Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, is a longtime advocate for tenant rights. I’ve been interviewing him on the issue for more than 20 years. I asked him about the housing shortage, as it affected Jews and non-Jews alike. “Our crisis is not just a crisis, it is a catastrophe,” he said. Los Angeles, he said, “has the distinction of being No. 1 in the nation” when it comes to high rents. “About 64 percent of renters pay unaffordable rent, paying more than 60 percent of their income for rent.” Angelenos, he said, would need to have a family income of $80,000 a year for an average two-bedroom apartment.
Gross said, “Regardless of who you are and where you live, if you live in a rent-controlled unit, you have a target on your back.”