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Commentary: Council's action will save affordable housing for seniors

July 12, 2012|By Jim Righeimer

I called Jean Forbath after her commentary ("Rent hikes at Bethel Towers will hurt seniors," July 10) appeared in the Daily Pilot and told her that she had drawn the wrong conclusions from staff writer Joseph Serna's article about the City Council's recent approval of tax-free bonds to renovate Bethel Towers.

As past chairman of the Orange County Housing Authority, I am very concerned with keeping affordable housing for our Costa Mesa seniors.

From the facts presented in the story, Forbath concluded that the affordable housing operator that is looking to take over Bethel Towers would make only 20% of the 269 units affordable, creating a loss of 215 affordable senior housing units.

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This is wrong.

All 269 senior units would remain affordable though various government programs for an additional 55 years. No tenant would be forced to move out. Rents would remain stable. And Bethel Towers itself would receive $18.5 million in essential safety improvements, including earthquake retrofitting and the building's first-ever sprinkler system.

If an affordable housing operator did not take over operations, the affordable rent provisions for Bethel Towers would stop in 2017, creating a housing nightmare for the seniors who live there as the units would revert to market rates.

If the interested affordable housing operator can complete the complex Bethel Towers deal (and approving the tax-free bond was a key step), the city's affordable senior housing stock will remain the same, the Bethel Towers residents can stay in their homes, the building will be much more safe and the year 2017 will no longer loom ominously in the minds of the seniors living there.

This is a deal that was applauded by Bethel Towers' residents and should be seen as a major win to keep affordable housing for our city's seniors.

JIM RIGHEIMER is mayor pro tem of Costa Mesa and past chairman of the Orange County Housing Authority.

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