Future uncertain for elderly residents

Publication Date: Wednesday Jun 17, 1998

HOUSING: Future uncertain for elderly residents

156-unit low-income facility converting to market rates

by Elisabeth Traugott

Elderly residents from the Palo Alto Gardens apartment building, a 156-unit low-income housing complex on San Antonio Road, are worried about their futures in the days leading up to June 30--the day the federal housing subsidy program there expires. Dozens of elderly residents from the apartment building, many of them frail and disabled, came to the Palo Alto City Council meeting on June 8 to express their growing concern about their rental situations.

Some, like Ella Shreberk, told the council their lives are filled with anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Others said they need to stay in Palo Alto Gardens because of its proximity to doctors and hospitals they know.

On June 30, the property management company, Goldrich & Kest, will convert any vacated units to market rates, and residents who stay will have their rental rates reassessed according to federal Section 8 voucher guidelines.

Goldrich & Kest, which owns many similar complexes throughout the state, has paid off a federal loan that required the company to rent at rates significantly below market to the elderly and disabled.

From now on, rents for current residents will be calculated on an individual basis, at 30 percent of a family's monthly adjusted gross income, which will take into account special circumstances like medical allowances.

During the next year, residents will also use susidized vouchers to pay part of the rent and the government will make up the difference with market rate.

"The basic source from where the money is coming is changing from HUD (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) to the Housing Authority," said Minerva Ramsey, a housing program supervisor with the Santa Clara County Housing Authority.

Ramsey has been meeting with tenants at Palo Alto Gardens and helping them through the new application process. For the first year, starting July 1, the tenants will be able to draw from a special pool of subsidy money, which funds vouchers that the property owners must accept during the transitional year.

After that, the tenants, if they qualify, will be eligible for regular Section 8 vouchers, which can be used anywhere in the United States. But beginning July 1, 1999, the property owners do not have to accept them.

"There is a guarantee that the clients, if they are eligible, will have the subsidy issued to them, but I cannot guarantee that the owner is going to continue doing business with us," said Ramsey, although she added there is every reason to believe the owner will stay with the program.

"The owners have been very cooperative and have been doing everything they possibly can to work with the Housing Authority to maintain the units under contract," Ramsey said.

A representative from Goldrich and Kest's San Jose office was unable to comment on the situation. Calls to the company's Culver City headquarters were not returned. 

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