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Behind the Scenes


Living for the City
Produced by Pam Turse & J. Greenberg

The Valley's housing crunch is forcing middle-class families out of the cities and into the surrounding suburbs. But many on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder cannot afford to leave the city any more than they can afford to live in it.

Of the 42% of Californians who rent, nearly half spend more than the recommended 30% of their income on housing. For those in the lowest income brackets, that figure jumps to a shocking 91%. Urban renewal has been both a blessing and a curse. As downtown blocks are cleaned up and gentrified, low-income families may find themselves priced out of neighborhoods that they've lived in for generations.

Public housing programs were established to help these families. Under Section 8, qualified renters pay a fixed amount of their wages -- between 30 and 40% -- on rent; the government fulfills the balance. The program was once a boon to both renters and landlords, providing the latter with tenants and guaranteed payment. But with housing shortages throughout the state, those who qualify for the programs are facing greater competition for fewer opportunities.

The hi-tech boom of the 1990s drew thousands of new workers to California; at the same time, requests for new building permits fell drastically. The result, according to the California budget project, is a shortfall of more than 500,000 affordable housing units. Organizations like the Nehemiah Corporation are working hard to counter this trend. Founded in 1994, Nehemiah now has a nationwide reach, providing assistance for first-time homeowners, and revitalizing distressed urban environments.

Architect David Mogavero agrees that there is ample urban space just waiting to be revitalized. His firm -- Mogavero, Notestine, and Associates -- won awards for its infill development at Sacramento's Metro Square, a former brownfield that now supports 45 single-family homes. They'll soon begin renovating this withered lot at the corner of T and 10th Streets. Five blocks away, the 25 families of Southside Park Co-housing have brought new life -- and a new way of life -- to one downtown neighborhood.

Belying the notion that strong fences make good neighbors, the residents of Southside Park share everything from bikes and lawnmowers, to assistance and advice. In the center of their development, a common house provides a place for neighborhood meetings, childcare, and communal meals. It's hard to believe that two abandoned factories once occupied the site; Southside Park's houses are eco-friendly -- and affordable.


David Mogavero
Mogavero, Notestine, & Associates

Don Harris
Nehemiah Corporation

John Kloss
Southside Park resident


The complete text of New Valley Episode 102 -- Through the Roof...


Presentation also made possible by a grant from
the Great Valley Center


New Valley Official Site