City Council Election Question #4 – Affordable Housing

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As part of myBurbank’s Election 2022 coverage, we have asked all of the candidates in the three races some tough questions to help voters decide who deserves their vote.

In the race for City Council, there are seven candidates, and we asked ten tough questions. We told the candidates they could write as much as they wanted, and we did not edit their responses in any way. We rotated the order after every question.

Today is question 4 of 10 – Affordable Housing: What should be done with the lack of fordable housing? What are your thoughts on instituting rent control? How do you feel about SB35 and how it overrides city zoning and any thoughts on the Pickwick development?

Sharon Springer

I support affordable rental and for sale housing at every income level.  Affordable housing is defined as that which the cost doesn’t exceed 30% of one’s gross income.  City Council and I have adopted a goal of 12,000 units by 2035 and a commitment to achieving our RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) numbers.  Theoretically, achieving our RHNA numbers will result in an adequate supply of affordable housing at all levels.  

I am involved with developing policy to bring the housing supply up, costs down and make progress on increasing home ownership with a goal of 60% within 20 years.  The goal is to extend home ownership and provide the opportunity for generational wealth building and stabilized housing costs to first time home buyers who want that opportunity.

I will move forward with our 100% renewable energy goal in mind.  I will continue to advocate for local control and I will focus on housing in the following Specific Plan areas: Burbank Center Plan (including Civic Plaza), Media District Plan and Golden State Plan.  Have adequate rental supply so that affordable units are available for different income levels.  Exploit and maximize the voucher system so that we can include as many needy residents as possible.  Locate housing close to employment opportunities and transportation

What are your thoughts on instituting rent control?  I support affordable rents.  Burbank falls under statewide rent control AB 1482; I support no further rent control measures.  Studies show that rent control makes housing affordability worse.  Rent control results in reduced rental housing supply, higher rents, accelerated gentrification and pushes low-income families from their neighborhoods.  Instead of rent control as a goal, affordable housing must be the goal if we truly want to address the problem.  It’s time that we accept this and move toward effective housing policy that supports all our residents and does not push out anybody. 

Two years ago, Burbank rejected a local rent control measure with opposition at approximately 64% and any further rent control measures should be decided by voters.  
 
How do you feel about SB35 and how it overrides city zoning and any thoughts on the Pickwick development?  I’ve been very open with my opinions on the importance of retaining local control.  I oppose planning and zoning from Sacramento.  Burbank has committed to a 12,000-unit housing goal and it is important that Burbank locates housing where it is best for our community and proximate to resources and utility and public transportation infrastructure. 

SB35 affordability requirements are below Burbank goals and our RHNA guidelines, so that moving forward, SB35 will result in going “in the hole” on affordability.  I am grateful that Burbank, the developer and the Rancho neighborhood agreed on a settlement. 

Tamala Takahashi

We have a 3/1 jobs to housing ratio. This is the highest in California, and nearly the highest in our country. This means that property values are high, which is good for those who have property as investments, but it’s pushing Burbank into a higher earning bracket to move here. The housing that is available is out of reach for most folks, especially our work force. We are losing our city’s identity as a middle class, working class city. I am a general advocate for more housing, and specifically for housing for teachers/first responders/government staff and contractors, and essential workers. For these I’m looking into the viability of allocating housing in the Burbank Housing Corporation, the new Tri-City Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena affordable housing authority, and Disney and Warner Brothers supportive housing for workforce. I have a comprehensive housing plan (that is flexible based on the changes in housing laws etc), that includes focussed high density housing near transit and services, gentle density near R1 areas, protected walkable neighborhoods, and rent-to-own and community shared housing incentives. But whatever we do, we have to take a serious look at our housing element, our city zoning, and what kind of city we want, which will take some heavy lifting, challenging conversations, and reality checks. To do this, I believe the best way would be to create a housing task force, including community members, local organizations, housing authorities, and subject experts, and create the best plan we can.

There are many folks who are worried about our city growing, identifying issues like traffic that have been caused by our growth. But the truth is, we haven’t grown our population since 1990. (https://www.biggestuscities.com/city/burbank-california). The traffic we see as an example of our growth is almost entirely from commuters. If we bring folks into our city, they don’t have to commute. It’s counterintuitive, but having more housing will make our city safer, quieter, healthier, and less traffic. That said, we have to be proactive in where and how we add housing, and make sure that we are creating a safe city to get around without a car, so that we are a quiet, walk/bikeable, quaint suburban city, not a bustling Los Angeles metropolis.

Link to the city’s most current housing element (which still has not been approved by the HDC): https://www.burbankhousingelement.com

Carmenita Helligar

We need to focus on increasing the inventory of units in an efficient and sustainable way. A few steps I think that we need would be to have 6 pre-approved/pre reviewed plans for ADU units. So if a home owner chooses from one of the 6 plans it will cut through the time and speed up the process. The majority of the homes in Burbank were built by Lockheed for their workers. We need to focus on any and all land that is available and survey and grade it to build homes.Burbank needs to find a way to build more single-family homes/townhomes for this generation and come up with a rent to own programs to help residents build wealth. The new library that will be built is going to include housing. Some of the apartments should be subsidized for our teachers, nurses, fire. Our Governor just signed AD 2295 into law which is for teacher housing. The city needs to support the school district in making this a reality.

I think that the state rental control is working right now. The true issue again is supply and demand. If we focus on creating more units, residents would have more choices.

For years Burbank was told to increase there housing units and did not. So the State stepped in. We need to focus on meeting our numbers in the best way possible to get local control again. Burbank is unique in the fact that we have experts I the industry that also live here. We should be seeking their advice. Since Pickwick has come to an agreement, I do not have any thoughts on the matter.

Zizette Mullins

Affordable housing, or more importantly, the lack of affordable housing is one of the most critical issues facing nearly every city in the state. Our current Council has established a goal of creating 12,000 new housing units by 2035 but has not identified a path toward achieving this while also providing a mix of affordability that this community needs. We have also not prioritized the needs of low and moderate-income seniors. I look forward to working with the Council, the Community Development Department and the community itself to aggressively pursue new development projects within the areas of the City that do not impact existing single-family neighborhoods. The intent is to promote a broad range of housing with a mix of affordability, as well as high-quality senior housing to address the needs of this particular community. The City needs to become pro-active in pursuing first-rate development opportunities rather than just being reactionary when new housing projects are proposed.  Housing will be a priority for me as a Council Member.

Regarding rent control:  while housing affordability is a major issue, there is already a current statewide rental control law that was implemented in 2020 under AB1482. Further, a city-specific and more stringent rent control measure was soundly defeated by Burbank voters in November 2020 by more than a 27% margin. It is clear that the vast majority of our voters who turned out in 2020 were not in favor of an additional layer of city-specific rent control. While economists rarely agree upon anything, the one issue they universally agree upon is that rent controls do not work and actually have an adverse impact on the market in that rent control over the long run reduces access to affordable housing in communities where they are enacted. If we want to address affordability in Burbank’s housing market, the only effective way to do this is by increasing the number of housing units. We have not done that successfully for over 30 years. As a Council Member, I will fight to address the affordability in the City’s housing market by promoting intelligent and well-planned development in appropriate locations, such as in the downtown and the Golden State areas. This will help increase our housing stock and protect our single-family neighborhoods.

Nikki Perez

As a lifelong renter in Burbank, I want to create a Burbank that is affordable for everyone who calls Burbank home. We all want the same thing, somewhere safe and within our means to live. 

Burbank has long not done its part to meet state housing development goals. In fact, we owe the state a RHNA allocation of 8,772 units. This has been building up over many years and we very seriously need to make policy changes. It’s not lost on me that at our past three forums, every single candidate has called for more housing including more affordable housing. The rising costs of housing, limited ownership opportunities, and rent increases are clearly front and center on the minds of many Burbank residents. 

To address this issue, we’re going to have to add more housing. This includes market rate rental units, affordable and working-class housing units, and opportunities to own a home that fit our city’s needs and allow families to build equity and generational wealth. I absolutely support establishing further rent stabilization, which is merely a cap on the rates that rents can be raised annually, beyond the very modest limits currently set by the state with AB 1482. I also support deepening tenant protections such as empowering our Landlord-Tenant Commission, while also ensuring renters are proportionally represented on that body. I know there is a way that we can protect our almost 60% renters while being fair to mom-and-pop landlords and ensuring that our renters are no longer priced out of Burbank. 

As a resident, I don’t love that we are losing local control, but I do think the tension between the state trying to ensure there are enough beds for every head in California and the difficulties of adding housing in our communities has reached a boiling point. We need to take a more proactive, not reactive, approach to state and federal housing legislation. Pickwick is a great example. The legislation passed in 2017, and yet we did not make the zoning changes necessary to prevent the Pickwick parcel, which is in our unique Commercial Recreational zone, from being SB-35 exempt. I think if we want to take our city’s future into our own hands and develop intelligently, we need to be proactive towards housing legislation and organize our own plans at home. We need to ensure that our zoning ordinances and area specific plans align if we want to develop on our terms and protect historic areas like Magnolia Park and the Rancho district.