for the City
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
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
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
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.
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.