Everybody’s business

The livin’ ain’t easy
If you’re poor, the chances are also poor that you have a nice place to live. And if you’re middle-income, things aren’t looking that much better.

The nonprofit California Budget Project (CBP) found in Locked Out: California’s Affordable Housing Crisis, a report released Jan. 28, that middle-income families (a moderate household income is between $20,000 and $40,000) are facing what poorer California families have been dealing with for years: They can’t afford to buy, or even rent, an adequate place to live.

In Butte County, someone earning minimum wage would have to put in 75 hours of work a week to afford the 2004 fair-market rent for a two-bedroom unit: $660. For a $496 one-bedroom, that same worker could get by on 57 hours.

Homeownership rates are down among all age groups except seniors, and California has the fourth-lowest home ownership rate in the nation. Many families are putting far more than the recommended 30 percent of their incomes toward housing.

Not enough houses are being built to accommodate population growth, and of the new construction that is taking place, not enough is affordable to low- and middle-income home-seekers. As rents and house prices have risen, incomes have remained stagnant. As a result, the CBP says, families are living in substandard or overcrowded housing.

Cool school
Since I cover schools, imagine my pleasure upon the Chico Unified School District’s unveiling of a new, improved Web site at www.chicousd.org. The site is much easier to navigate, includes new features and looks really good. (Although those children pictured on the home page are from a stock photo agency. I’d personally prefer to see some local kids.)

The site redesign was part of the district’s Strategic Plan, which includes among its goals better communication with the public. It cost $9,000 for the design, programming and training for the site, and the money came from Safe Schools, Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grant funds, strategic planning and Title I funding.

A team including Director of Information Technology Vikki Gillett and Executive Secretary Kim Hutchison coordinated the project, implementing a design developed under the direction of Jason Jeffery of Diverse Network Associates of Chico. Ten CUSD staff members have been trained to maintain the site.

Losing your cookies
If you’ve enjoyed surreptitiously asking for the “pink” fortunes when you get your after-dinner cookies at Hula’s Chinese Bar-B-Q, your R-rated dining days are over. Hula’s is no longer giving out the racy version of the fortune cookies because, as an employee told us when we asked for them this week, “people were getting them who weren’t asking for them.”

But, she went on to say, there are still a lot of requests for the pink fortunes. They must be the underground secret of the Chico restaurant world.