Faced with complaints about rising rents, the Irvine Co. has changed its policy on low-income housing units.
A company official told the City Council and a group of unhappy tenants that the changes reflect a more accurate measure of county income.
John Maciha, vice president of residential asset management for Irvine Pacific, said the company would use the county's annual measure of median income published each June to determine potential rent increases, rather than quarterly measures. Rents at 265 Irvine apartments for low-income residents are based on county median income figures.
The group of tenants had come to the council meeting to protest proposed rent increases of up to 15%. Earlier protests, coupled with suspicion that the quarterly income reports may be in error, had persuaded the company last week to roll back the increases to 9%.
Tenants who qualify for the city's low-income housing earn less than 50% of the median income in Orange County. Last January, the median income figure was listed as $46,928, with a jump to $53,502 slated for December, said Bob Wilson, manager of the county's economic Forecast and Analysis Center.
The city's low-income housing program was set up five years ago when the Irvine Co. was given tax-free financing to build apartment complexes in exchange for reserving 10% of the units for low-income tenants.
With the 9% increases, tenants of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in the program would jump from $572 a month to $623. Those who do not qualify for the program pay $815, $955 and $1,200 a month, respectively.
Mayor Larry Agran reacted angrily when Maciha referred to the "economic opportunity" offered by the program.
"I'm incensed by the idea that somehow this is charity. We aren't giving anything to anyone," he said.