Jul 142013

We all assume that low income senior housing in this location is a great idea. I have all along said that I have no objections to a non-rezoned use of the land by PAHC. Recently I received more data from a PAHC board member that answered a long lasting question of mine.

Candace Gonzales had said during the very first meeting that many home owners in Barron Park will qualify to rent in the Maybell facility. I thought that she had made a gross error. I was told by a PAHC Board member that the affordable housing program (regulations are set by the federal government)  does not count assets, only income, as a qualifier.

For example, a senior could sell a million dollar house, and s/he would have an asset in cash. 2% of those assets are considered yearly income. So that person would have $20,000 of yearly  income and s/he qualifies for affordable housing here in Santa Clara County.  Any other income, such as social security income he/she received, would also be counted.

Now if you look at the PAHC’s Sheridan apartments for seniors here is the eligibility chart:

Rental Rates and Income Limits
Rents are based on 30% of adjusted household income

# In Family

Max Income







So if a senior couple make 1.5 million on the sale of their house they can move into the Maybell property (2%*1500000 = $30000 < $42450). Of course they might also consider handing some of that money to their children so their social security income doesn’t get them over the threshold.

On the other hand if you are a senior couple with annual income of $45000 and no assets you do not qualify!

Does this make sense to anyone? Aren’t we subsidizing the heirs to the former couple?

And it gets worse. I know many many seniors from my old country and various other countries that hide their considerable assets overseas and claim poverty and apply to PAHC. Others move a lot of their assets to their children in order to qualify for these low income units. California has never done a good job of filtering out the non-deserving from the truly deserving low income people because of budget or nondiscrimination laws.

What is sad is that we are subsidizing a portion of the society to live in a very unsuitable location just to satisfy PAHC’s corporate goals. And some residents support it because they are genuinely nice people who think they are doing the right thing. If PAHC were really concerned about the desperate need of low income housing they would have proposed to build something for the Buena Vista folks who have children in Palo Alto schools.

This issue has been known for 10 years and PAHC has had time. These low income people are the true Palo Alto residents who need a place.



  3 Responses to “Who is a Low Income Senior”

  1. It was good talking with you yesterday at Mitchell Park Library. As I promised you, I asked staff about the numbers of seniors who would be eligible for the 59 1-bedroom units at the Maybell development.

    At one of the city council meetings, Councilman Greg Schmid remarked that there were 460 seniors on the waiting list for 4 spots at senior housing at Lytton Gardens. At our Sheridan senior housing development, we have about 500 people on the waiting list.

    As far as your question asks how many of these are from Palo Alto: under the state’s fair housing law we are not allowed to discriminate against people from out of the city. We are, however, allowed to give a live/work preference to Palo Altans. So we may be able, for example, to give preference to seniors who are displaced from the Buena Park trailer park. Historically, our developments are filled with 75% local residents.

    This doesn’t mean the non-locals have no ties to Palo Alto. They are from out of the area such as southern California or the midwest and want to move close to their adult children who live in Palo Alto. (My own mother-in-law is thinking of selling her house in Southern California, to be closer to her grown children, but selling that house –worth ‘only’ $300,000–would not enable her to buy something here near her son in Palo Alto. She is 87 and lives on social security and some property rental income. She would probably be eligible for affordable housing in Palo Alto. She won’t come here because her doctors are in Los Angeles. Since the cost of living is so high in Palo Alto, generally people from out of the area who have family ties are the ones who choose to move here.

    I checked with our executive director about “downsizing seniors.” The affordable housing program (regulations are set by the federal government) does not count assets, only income, as a qualifier. For example, a senior could sell a million dollar house, and he or she would have an asset in cash. 2% of those assets are considered imputed yearly income. So that person would have $20,000 of imputed yearly income available and be eligible for affordable housing here in Santa Clara County. Any other income, such as social security income he/she received, would also be counted. It is rare that someone does sell a house and moves into affordable housing, but it does happen occasionally. This is what Candice meant when she said some seniors would be downsizing. The rest of her remark at the community meeting was that other seniors eligible would be from the homeless population here in Palo Alto and still others are on the waiting lists. (She had no intention of being condescending.)

    I hope this answers your questions. Please let me know if you have any others. I also hope to send you some descriptive information about our extensive resident services program which is tailored to senior needs.

  2. I will use Lisa’s example to explain why I don’t agree with the motivation for building this kind of senior housing. Lisa made a point regarding her mother-in-law who would like to be near her son in Palo Alto. She said her mother-in-law would qualify for the proposed Maybell facility if she chose to live in Palo Alto. She mentions that her mother in law’s $300,000 house and social security income and some rental income will not be sufficient to buy a house in Palo Alto. I understand how families like Lisa’s who own houses in Palo Alto feel, if they want their elders to be near them but the elder can not afford a $1+ million house. What I don’t understand is why only the Maybell Ave. neighborhood should in effect subsidize such seniors with incurred high density, added traffic and less safety for school children on bikes, etc.

    Some of you may recall that in 2004 the city of Palo Alto, in response to AB1866, relaxed the rules for building a second welling on standard sized R1 lots. These attached or detached units are sometimes informally called mother-in-law units. There are a number of people who have either added a unit to their house or bought houses with such units. One of my neighbors had to look for a very long time to find a house with a small backyard cottage to accommodate her mother-in-law. Others have allocated a room in their own house to their elderly parent at great sacrifice. Most Palo Alto homeowners are not expecting help from the taxpayer to subsidize accommodations for their loved ones.

    In spite of my own arguments above and elsewhere I am still willing to accept providing low income housing, senior or not, if a more sensible financing method is agreed upon. If there is consensus on the need for low income housing among the Palo Alto taxpayers we can introduce an annual parcel tax that builds funds for low income housing. Then PAHC will not have to surreptitiously build super high density housing to finance its projects.

    Lisa also mentions the waiting list for Lytton Gardens as if it is comparable to PAHC’s senior housing. Lytton is a continuing care retirement living facility with services including skilled nursing care, assisted living and retirement living. It serves low income seniors but it is not a rental facility. I would think that most folks on the waiting list of Lytton Gardens are in need of assistance that PAHC does not offer at any of its facilities. At the minimum they need meals and possibly housekeeping and nurses and therapists and other amenities on site.

  3. I am looking for a place to live. Social security is my only income and I get a little over 20k a year. I currently live in Palo Alto and need to stay in Palo Alto

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