Fact Sheet on Overlay Zone: Making it possible for churches to have affordable housing built on their underutilized land

15 Apr

MHCH is pleased that the City is considering a zoning change (called an “overlay zone”) which  would allow churches to have affordable housing on their underutilized land. This could lead to over 1,000 units of affordable housing spread throughout the city. Seventeen churches in Pasadena have indicated interest in this and one church now has a proposal for 52 affordable units! To learn more about the overzone zone making this possible, download this fact sheet:

Overlay Zone Fact Sheet 2020.09.25

Talking points for Overlay Zone to allow congregations to build affordable housing on their underutilized land.

#1: We are asking the City Council to support an overlay zone because the time to address the need for affordable housing is now, more than ever. And we have religious organizations throughout the City eager to be partners in making this happen.

Simply put, an overlay will save significant time, significant money, and provide certainty for both the religious organizations willing to provide affordable housing and the communities where that housing will be located.

By supporting an overlay zone that will ensure the majority of housing that will be developed is affordable, the City can ensure that projects are feasible and done in a way that minimizes the need for City or other public money to make affordable housing happen.

An overly zone is needed and superior to other suggestions of incorporating such zoning to Specific Plan update of Public/ Semi-Public zoning designation so because these planning processes would not adequately address the unique needs of congregations.

#2: An overlay zone enabling churches to build affordable housing will provide new land that would not otherwise be available for affordable housing. This is a significant opportunity when so few sites exist. Using church land is a huge opportunity for affordable housing developers to have feasible and successful projects. When they work with churches, developers don’t have to buy land in advance or carry the insurance cost. They can be more confident of community support since they have the support of a church which is part of a neighborhood. Yet, if churches wish to supply affordable housing, the cost and time needed to create a zoning change on a case-by-case basis as opposed to an overlay zone, can be significantly lowered if there such a policy is in place. Plus, it makes the deal attractive to a more experienced developer.

#3:  An overlay zone enabling churches to build affordable housing will provide an opportunity for the city to significantly reach affordable housing production goals and further its goal of being a diverse community. Housing Element (2014-2021) vision:

 “All Pasadena residents have an equal right to live in decent, safe and affordable housing in a suitable living environment for the long-term well-being and stability of themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, and their community. The housing vision for Pasadena is to maintain a socially and economically diverse community of homeowners and renters who are afforded this right.” 

#4: An overlay zone that enables churches to build affordable housing provides an opportunity for churches to participate in addressing the homeless and housing crisis.  From the poll we conducted, 17 churches are interested in having affordable housing on their land, with the potential of 1,177 units if a Congregational Land Overlay Zone is passed. 95% of churches would support a Congregational Land Overlay Zone to help other churches build housing on their land. Additionally, 19 churches (nearly half of all respondents) would allow SAFE parking on their church’s parking lots. And 11 churches were open to having a FEMA trailer on their property. Twelve churches already own approximately 58 rental units. Only six of them rent at market rate.

#5: An overlay zone that would allow community minded congregations that are already willing and mission-driven to become partners with the city to meet a very real need make good sense.  This also allows religious institutions to practice their faith in a very tangible way. Community based organizations would do this sensitively and respectfully out of love for their neighbors. They will live with this for the long term, so design in keeping with the neighborhood and a commitment to good relationships with neighbors will go a long way in addressing NIMBYISM.

#6: An overlay zone enabling churches to build affordable housing will allows for both  flexibility and certainly enabling sensitive solutions and designs for each site. Certain development standards will need to be addressed to provide enough flexibility for projects to be feasible. An overlay zone allows for the kind of certainly with flexibility to balance sensitivity to the project and the adjacent neighborhood in regard to appropriate densities and parking requirements to enhance the character of the neighborhood.

#7: An overlay zone for churches to build affordable housing minimized the money, risk and time for affordable housing developers. They cannot invest a great amount of time, money and risk into rezoning processes, and they will not take this time when there are other, simpler opportunities available in other cities.

#8: Because churches are throughout the city an overlay zone would spread affordable housing development through the city providing geographic equity and opportunity and investment in neighborhoods. The city would be wise to take advantage of this since so few sites exist especially in all areas of the city.  In Pasadena, for example, we estimate that there is capacity to build approximately 5,000 units of affordable housing on excess congregational land (the number of affordable units needed with the new RHNA numbers for the 2021-2028 Housing Element cycle). We know that not all congregations will do this, but the potential is significant. An overlay zone would ensure that any housing be built would be within city guidelines appropriate for each community. We must recognizing the power of congregations as allies with their excess land, missional orientation, and base of support in the community.  An overlay zone would help the city to go a long way toward meeting an urgent need.

#9:: Church attendance is declining, Gallop says that 69% of U.S. adults were members of a church in 1998-2000, compared with 52% in 2016-2018. This is particularly the case within land-rich older and mainline churches. Some churches are looking to off-load over-sized parking lots, high-maintenance buildings, and extra space. With shrinking congregations, many churches are unable to keep up. Affordable housing on church land has enabled churches to bless their communities, stay within mission, and help to prevent displacement due to the cost of housing, the very thing that is hurting many Pasadena churches.  Should a church feel called to consider affordable housing on their property, an overlay zone enabling churches desiring to have affordable housing on their property would provide a huge leap forward in addressing the housing crisis.

#10: Churches have a successful track record of partnering with affordable housing developers to provide affordable dwellings on their excess land. Some churches have already put parking lots, buildings constructed for congregations much larger than those of today, and other space on their properties to higher and better use by including affordable housing. In partnership with National Core (which developed Marv’s place in Pasadena, the UMC church in Santa Ana will be providing 95 units, half for families and half for those experiencing homelessness. Churches are doing this because they are called to serve the community and particularly its most vulnerable residents. Yet at the same time, they are also often able to generate a modest level of economic benefit that stabilizes these often struggling, but longstanding and critical institutions of our social fabric. In some cases, affordable housing developers have even provided additional parking for a church or developed other community serving uses on a site. Adopting an overlay zone that would enable churches, feeling so lead, to provide affordable housing on their property. Such a policy would make the process more straightforward, facilitate high quality partnerships with affordable housing developers to create much-needed affordable housing.

#11: Rezoning church land is one way that the city can make right with past sins of racial inequities that served to displace people of color.  With Urban renewal, a thriving African American neighborhood where Parsons now sits was displaced, moving them away from the city center, which today is zoned for 90 units per acre. They were not given the opportunity to capture the added value of the land from up-zoning, but instead encouraged to leave. Thriving Black communities and businesses on N. Fair Oaks were also displaced because of urban renewal. The 210 Freeway pushed out even more people of color. Too many families were not sufficiently remunerated for their property to again buy in Pasadena.  And if they wanted to, banks often would not provide them loans and they often were barred from obtaining private mortgage insurance. Due to significant displacement, one church has 8 members left. Several have closed. As one pastor put it, their church building is in Pasadena, but no one from their congregation can afford to live here anymore. Rezoning church land to allow for affordable housing would serve to prevent more displacement and correct past sins.  Some Black churches are eager to provide affordable housing on their underutilized land, please allow them to do so.

#12: Churches are and have been for many years an indispensable part of our City’s social fabric and have dedicated themselves to feeding the homeless, tutoring children, raising the City’s youth, keeping people in their homes. This history of investment in the community and neighbors creates a perfect marriage with new neighbors living in affordable housing on their property.

#13:   Churches are and have been for many years an indispensable part of our City’s social fabric and but many today are on the ropes because of long term trends, COVID-19 and today some need ways to generate income and reduce expenses to be able to continue in their mission. Affordable housing on their property can do just that.

#14:  An Overlay Zone is a locally-focused solution that will do a better job than proposed state legislation. A local solution designed by the community enables us to craft the kind of creative neighborhood-based housing solutions that enhance the design, beauty and character of our city.

Talking points for Pasadena Housing Element Forum on April 15

14 Apr

The City’s Housing Element webinar workshop coming up tomorrow evening, Thursday April 15 is not just another city meeting.  It’s a crucial step in deciding whether Pasadena is going to be serious over the next eight years about affordable housing and homelessness.  Your participation will show the city that Pasadena residents care!

State law requires the city to turn in a completely revised Housing Element of the General Plan by October.  A Housing Element is supposed to be a comprehensive blueprint for how Pasadena realistically intends to make it possible over the next eight years to build 9400 additional units of housing — of which 6,000 must be affordable to very low, low and moderate income households! It’s a huge lift but the city is only scheduling a single round of workshops (one in English on April 15 and one in Spanish on April 22 ) before they turn in a draft Housing Element for state review in June.

These Housing Element decisions affect literally everyone in Pasadena.  Where will new housing get built?  How will we ensure that the new housing isn’t just luxury condos and apartments?  How can we stem the displacement of longtime residents, especially among communities of color?  Will essential workers (teachers, nurses, and grocery employees) be able to live locally or have to commute an hour to work and back?  Will you be able to retire in Pasadena – or have to move far away?  Will closed retail stores sit vacant – or be turned into needed housing?  How can we prevent more homeless living on our streets? 

This is the time the state requires cities to address all these questions.  Will you log on to ensure the city knows that you care – and you want to ensure these questions get adequate community dialogue before the final plan is sent off to the state in October? 

Very seldom is a meeting like this so important!  If the city were offering more opportunities for community voices to be heard, we wouldn’t be so concerned.  But this is essential!  If we want to have a city that works for everyone, we have to show up to be sure the city develops a housing plan that works for everyone!

Log on tomorrow, Thursday, April 15, 2021, 6-8pm:

https://zoom.us/j/96754116456

Rick Cole, member of the Pasadena Affordable Housing Coalition and MHCH

 

  1. What are the major housing issues and challenges in Pasadena today and in the future?

The major issue facing our city is a lack of affordable housing that is forcing many long-time residents to leave our city. Children growing up in Pasadena can’t afford to live here. Teachers and city workers can’t afford to live here.  Essential workers can’t afford to live here.  People of color are being displaced. There is a desperate need for more affordable housing. The City needs to plan for at least 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next 8 years.

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment estimates that our city needs 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next eight years. That’s a real and urgent need that is impacting the quality of life for many in our city. That’s why Councilmember Kennedy is calling for 1,000 units of affordable housing in the next 1000 days.

Homelessness continues to be a major problem in our city, which can only be solved with supportive housing. The official count is 526, but the actual numbers are much higher due to the pandemic. Our city has done an outstanding job in building supportive housing but much more needs to be done to ensure that everyone in our city has access to a decent and affordable home—the vision of our previous Housing Element.

According to the previous Housing Element, most Pasadenans are overpaying for housing. Housing overpayment refers to paying more than 30% of income toward housing. Moderate overpayment refers to paying 30 to 49% of income toward housing, and severe overpayment is anything higher. In Pasadena, 43% of owners and 51% of renters overpay for housing. At that time (2012), nearly 12,000 renters and over 8,000 homeowners were severely cost-burdened, paying over 50% of their income on housing. That’s what we need at least 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next 8 years.

Over 20,000 people are on Pasadena’s Section 8 waiting list. They qualify for affordable housing, but there aren’t enough Section 8 units so many end up losing their vouchers and remaining housing insecure or unhoused.

Even though the homeless population has declined 54% over the last decade, over 500 people are still unhoused in our city and many more are housing insecure. The need for supportive housing will likely increase in the economic aftermath of this pandemic, so we need to plan for at least 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next 8 years.

 

  1. What types of housing are needed in the community?

We need affordable housing for families and students that are homeless or housing insecure.  School districts define homelessness by a definition set forth in the federal McKinney-Vento Act, as someone who lacks a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” including those who are “doubled up” – that is, staying in a friend’s or family member’s home because they lost their own housing. By that definition, between 500-700 students are homeless in PUSD and 300 families (see https://doorofhope.us/2019/05/23/how-many-homeless-families-in-pasadena/).

We need affordable housing for Vets. Many veterans who attend Pasadena City College are homeless or housing insecure.

We need affordable student housing for PUSD. Between 10-20% of PCC students are experiencing homelessness. That’s between 2,600 and 5,000 students!

We need housing for transitional and foster youth, many of whom end up on the street where they face sexual abuse and other forms of trauma.

We need housing for women experiencing homelessness. Women living on the street are extremely vulnerable. It should be the goal of our city to house every woman experiencing homelessness as soon as possible. Dorothy Edwards and Cynthia Kirby are good examples of what happens when we place unhoused women into secure and affordable homes. Their lives turn around and they become assets to the community.

We need affordable and supportive housing for seniors. Because seniors live on fixed income and housing costs are rising faster than the cost of living, seniors are the fast growing homeless population.

  1. Where should new housing be located in Pasadena?

Affordable housing should be located in every part of our city. We know that well-designed housing like Marv’s Place enhances a neighborhood and creates safety.

We need affordable housing dispersed throughout out city, which is a good reason to allow churches to have affordable housing built on their underutilized property. Churches want to be good neighbors and will make sure that any housing built will be in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.

We need more accessory dwelling units built throughout the city! Studies have shown that ADUs do not increase traffic and tend to be rented at lower than market rate. ADUs held keep families together. Low-income homeowners should be incentivized to build ADUs for Section 8 renters.

Prayer Vigil for Affordable Housing

14 Apr

 

prayer vigil affordable housing masthead final

You are invited to a prayer vigil focusing on how racial and economic inequity can be addressed through affordable housing. During this one-hour event we will offer prayers of confession, commitment, thanksgiving and petitions for our neighbors who are un-housed, displaced or housing insecure, and that religious institutions will be allowed to build affordable housing on their underutilized land.

When: Saturday, April 24 at 4:00 pm

Where: New Hope Baptist Church

1787 N Fair Oaks Ave

Pasadena, CA 91103

We will meet socially distanced, outdoors. Please wear masks. RSVP bert@makinghousinghappen.org. We need a sense of how many people will be attending.

There are 15 parking spaces available for disabled or elderly. Please let Bert know if you need a space.

To download PDF version of flyer click here: prayer vigil affordable housing flyer

“ABCs of ADUs”:MHCH April Housing Justice Forum

9 Apr

ABCs of ADUs Masthead PictureJoin us to learn about Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), or “Granny Flats.” An introduction for homeowners and a  springboard for future workshops topics to be determined by a poll or survey (landlord training, how to choose a contractor…. etc.)

When: Tues. Apr 27, 2021               

7:00 PM 

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qd–orTMpH9dnvHN3wUvj3nIsiOFah8_Y

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Click her for PDF version of flyer: ABCs of ADUs

ADU for blog

For many years, it was all but  impossible to build granny flats  legally in Pasadena. Today, thanks to advocates like MHCH, any single-family homeowner can convert their garage into an ADU, no matter their property size, or build an attached or detached ADU if their property size in 7,200 sf.

To support our housing justice work, click on

makinghousinghappen.org/donate

Job opening for executive assistant for MHCH

17 Mar

We are seeking a detail-oriented, tech-savvy and self-directed part-time Executive Assistant to work closely with the Executive Director, who is an author and workshop leader around the US.  This position is responsible for providing assistance to the ED and performing administrative and organizational functions in support of our organization Making Housing and Community Happen (MHCH), based in Pasadena, CA. MHCH has a track record of successful housing justice efforts for 25 years. This is an exciting opportunity to grow and learn what it takes to effectively address the housing crisis with a racial justice lens.

  • 15 hours per week, with 10 hours in our home-based office in Pasadena. Work can be conducted remotely until the assistant is fully vaccinated.
  • $20 per hour

Making Housing and Community Happen is a faith-rooted non-profit organization that equips congregations, community leaders, and neighbors with practical tools needed to transform their communities, to end homelessness, and to stabilize the cost of housing through education, advocacy, organizing and advisement.

Essential responsibilities and skills include the following. Other duties may be assigned. 

  • Communications: assisting with preparation of routine correspondence including emails, phone calls, and newsletters. Ability to work with (quickly learn) Mailchimp, Google Workspace apps, and Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel).
  • Filing and organization: maintain files, contacts, and news media in both hardcopy locations and electronic drives.
  • Mail management: help manage, streamline, incoming mail.
  • Meeting coordination: assist with the logistics of in-person meetings and Zoom meetings. Create minutes for meetings and maintain records of meeting agendas and minutes.
    • Core Meetings: Second Tuesday of every month from 6 PM to 8 PM
    • Housing Justice Forum: Fourth Tuesday of every month from 7 PM to 8:30 PM
  • Bookkeeping support: manage donor database, send thank you letters and receipts, manage receipts for reimbursements, and assist with donor communications.
  • Volunteer management: track and manage volunteer database and coordinate communication with volunteers
  • Trouble shoot technology issues, develop and implement more efficient and effective systems for managing information, projects and communications
  • Assist with office maintenance which may include tidying up files and mail or helping to purchase office supplies

Qualifications:

  • Excellent listening, verbal, and interpersonal skills, patient and understanding.
  • Curious and enjoys opportunities to grow and learn.
  • Flexibility in working non-traditional hours during key events (like our November fundraising event) and periods of high demand. This may require occasional travel to off-site meetings and include some evening and/or weekend hours to assist as needed with meetings and events.
  • Ability to demonstrate tact, discretion, and diplomacy with staff, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders.
  • College degree preferred.
  • Prefer someone who is comfortable with social media, website and blog maintenance, and online communications.

To apply: please submit your cover letter (detailing your interest in the position), resume, and include the contact information for three references.  We will contact your references prior to scheduling an interview with you. Please submit all of the above to Margaret Lee margaret@makinghousinghappen.org

Organization website: https://www.makinghousinghappen.org/

Accepting applications until April 15th

Start Date: ASAP

You’re invited to our March MHCH Housing Justice Forum: Give Churches a chance to build affordable housing!

16 Mar

You’re invited to our MHCH Monthly Housing Justice Educational Forum. Learn how churches are having affordable housing built on their underutilized land,  and how we can make it easier for them to address the housing crisis and thrive.

When: Tuesday, March 23 2021                

7:00 PM Pacific Time

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEpf-Gsqj8qGN1OyOvDVQ3v6uU08ji0CgUA

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. For more info, contact Jill@makinghousinghappen.com.

Housing justice march 2021 picture of Wesley Hall

Above is a picture of Wesley Village, an innovative, adaptive reuse property in Orange County that features multigenerational affordable housing and services in collaboration with the Garden Grove United Methodist Church.

SPEAKERS

Sarah Walker is a Project Manager, Planning at National Community Renaissance based in Rancho Cucamonga, California.  National Community Renaissance (CORE) is one of the nation’s largest non-profit affordable housing developers with a 20-year track record in community revitalization. CORE promotes the future economic and social transformation of communities by building quality, affordable housing combined with best practice social services to improve the self-sufficiency of its residents. Sarah will discuss the benefits and opportunities for congregation seeking to have affordable housing built on their property.

As the leader of the Arroyo Group, a 40-year-old planning and urban design firm that planned Old Pasadena, the Playhouse District, and the Civic Center, Philip Burns brings the firm’s resources to the Congregational Land Committee to analyze and write zoning, secure entitlements, build consensus with community leaders and neighbors, and facilitate dialogues within churches. Philip has prepared transit-oriented development plans, zoning ordinances and transportation plans for Metro and the cities of Pasadena, Compton and Inglewood, among others. Having served in the Peace Corps in Guatemala, Philip is bilingual in English and Spanish, and is the leader of children and youth ministry at Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

“THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME” HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM MAKING HOUSING & COMMUNITY HAPPEN (MHCH)

17 Dec

nativity“It’s a universal story. It concerns a man and his pregnant wife. After a long journey they arrive at last at the man’s hometown, only to find there’s no place to lay their heads. Tired and discouraged, they come at last to a crowded inn and there’s no room so they ask if they can find shelter in the stable. Thus, was the prince of peace born.”

Rick Cole, former mayor of Pasadena and a member of MHCH, shared these words during our Dec 4th online gathering “There’s no place like home.” He went on to say,

“MHCH is all about making sure that everyone has a place they can afford, a place to call home. Our successes are making a large difference in the lives of our neighbors. Support us so we can find room in our community for all who need it.” (To donate, click here.)

During our online celebration Cynthia Kirby shared her story about living for 10 years on the street and how housing and the love of Christ changed her life. Members of our six committees told why they were moved to give their time and hearts to housing justice: Congregational Land Committee (CLC), Safe Parking, Affordable/Supportive Advocates (ASHA), Community Land Trust (CLT), Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative.  At a time of growing racial inequities, we thank God for the diversity on our teams and among the 23 churches in our network.  We heard religious and community leaders give testimonials about why they support MHCH.  We heard Elvis sing our theme song “There’s no place like home” and “Tramp on the Street” a moving music video by John York  (of the Byrds) about our homeless neighbors. Nearly two hundred people from across the nation and across the political spectrum joined together, united by the ancient biblical vision that “everyone will live under their own vine and fig tree, at peace and unafraid” (Micah 4:4).

Like the birth of Jesus, our celebration was all about hope in a time of darkness. About churches and our city coming together as a beloved community. About seeing Pasadena’s homeless count decline 54% in the last decade while the count in most of LA County increased. We celebrate hope because this fall the Pasadena City Council approved 112 units of affordable housing, right smack in the heart of our city, next to City hall, with 10% of these units for homeless seniors! We celebrate because 902 affordable housing units are in our city’s pipeline. We celebrate because 34 churches are interested in partnering with our Congregational land team; this could produce 1,000s of affordable units.  (112 people showed up at a city workshop to support a zone change to make this possible!)

None of this would have happened without advocacy, careful research and organizing. That’s why at our celebration we honored Allison Henry, organizer for Everyone In, along with our church liaison coordinator Bert Newton and two City Council members who are champions of affordable housing.

mcaustinMargaret McAustin, a City Council woman whom we honored for championing Marv’s Place, which provides homes for 19 formerly unhoused families, praised MHCH: “As an organization, MHCH has grown so much. It has become an organization that researches and studies best practices that help inform city policies on affordable housing. That’s how affordable housing becomes more a part of our city in everything that we do.”


kennedyJohn Kennedy,
 another Council member we honored, is counting on us to support his bold vision: to see 1,000 units of affordable housing built in the next three years. He says: “I want to see the city do more than just adopt a policy directive to house low, very low and extremely low income residents. These categories are the hardest to produce. But if the city partners with developers to produce this housing, we as a community can get this done.”

molinaAt the celebration Anne Marie Molina, mother of five and chair of our Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Committee, shared her moving story about being a homeless teenager and how her life was transformed when she was sheltered by the Salvation Army. She has become a proud mother, banker and advocate for affordable housing. She says: “Homelessness is not the result of drug use or any other single cause. It’s a kaleidoscope of reasons that people become homeless. MHCH understands that so well. Their work for housing justice makes our whole community better. Everyone should support their work.”

Peter Havholm, a retired English professor, helps our volunteers write their housing stories of hope. Andre White also told his story about leaving his job as a trader on Wall Street to return to Hilton Head Island to help his African American community save their land from large resorts.

During this holiday season we want to wish you all a blessed time, despite the COVID crisis and all its challenges. As we celebrate a child who was born in stable, please remember those who are without a home or housing insecure and consider how you can hope. There is much we can do!

If you are in the Pasadena area, we have openings in our ASHA, ADU and CLT teams. Please consider encouraging your church or faith community to become part of our network of congregations. You can also take part in a campaign or make a recurring donation.

When we work together, we can create what Dr. King called the “beloved community” where there is room for everyone!

With hope and joy,

Jill and Anthony

jill and anthony

“No Place Like Home” Celebration Videos

Join us Tues. Dec.15 at 6 pm to let the city know that churches should be allowed build affordable housing on their property

7 Dec

The City of Pasadena Planning & Community Development Department will hold a virtual community meeting to define regulations related to permanent housing on properties owned by churches and other faith-based organizations.

Please join us for a live webinar on Tuesday, December 15 at 6:00 PM where city staff will present background information and proposed options for housing on properties owned by churches and faith-based organizations, as well as answer questions from participants.

Please visit the city website to learn more:

www.cityofpasadena.net/planning/planning-division/community-planning/religious-facility-housing/

Or download this notice:  Notice_Email_Church Housing Webinar

All you need to do is log on to this link at 6 pm and state in the chat who you are, and say:

“I think it’s a great idea to allow churches and religious institutions to build affordable housing on their underutilized land.”

If you want to say more, talking points are below and you can cut and paste a comment that most speaks to you.

MHCH is pleased that the City will consider this zoning change (called an “overlay zone”) which  would allow churches to have affordable housing on their underutilized land. This could lead to over 1,000 units of affordable housing spread throughout the city. Seventeen churches in Pasadena have indicated interest in this and one church now has a proposal for 52 affordable units! To learn more about the overzone zone making this possible, download this fact sheet:

Overlay Zone Fact Sheet 2020.09.25

Talking points for Overlay Zone to allow congregations to build affordable housing on their underutilized land.

 #1: We are asking the City Council to support an overlay zone because the time to address the need for affordable housing is now, more than ever. And we have religious organizations throughout the City eager to be partners in making this happen.

 Simply put, an overlay will save significant time, significant money, and provide certainty for both the religious organizations willing to provide affordable housing and the communities where that housing will be located.

By supporting an overlay zone that will ensure the majority of housing that will be developed is affordable, the City can ensure that projects are feasible and done in a way that minimizes the need for City or other public money to make affordable housing happen.

An overly zone is needed and superior to other suggestions of incorporating such zoning to Specific Plan update of Public/ Semi-Public zoning designation so because these planning processes would not adequately address the unique needs of congregations.

#2: An overlay zone enabling churches to build affordable housing will provide new land that would not otherwise be available for affordable housing. This is a significant opportunity when so few sites exist. Using church land is a huge opportunity for affordable housing developers to have feasible and successful projects. When they work with churches, developers don’t have to buy land in advance or carry the insurance cost. They can be more confident of community support since they have the support of a church which is part of a neighborhood. Yet, if churches wish to supply affordable housing, the cost and time needed to create a zoning change on a case-by-case basis as opposed to an overlay zone, can be significantly lowered if there such a policy is in place. Plus, it makes the deal attractive to a more experienced developer.

#3:  An overlay zone enabling churches to build affordable housing will provide an opportunity for the city to significantly reach affordable housing production goals and further its goal of being a diverse community. Housing Element (2014-2021) vision:

 “All Pasadena residents have an equal right to live in decent, safe and affordable housing in a suitable living environment for the long-term well-being and stability of themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, and their community. The housing vision for Pasadena is to maintain a socially and economically diverse community of homeowners and renters who are afforded this right.” 

#4: An overlay zone that enables churches to build affordable housing provides an opportunity for churches to participate in addressing the homeless and housing crisis.  From the poll we conducted, 17 churches are interested in having affordable housing on their land, with the potential of 1,177 units if a Congregational Land Overlay Zone is passed. 95% of churches would support a Congregational Land Overlay Zone to help other churches build housing on their land. Additionally, 19 churches (nearly half of all respondents) would allow SAFE parking on their church’s parking lots. And 11 churches were open to having a FEMA trailer on their property. Twelve churches already own approximately 58 rental units. Only six of them rent at market rate.

#5: An overlay zone that would allow community minded congregations that are already willing and mission-driven to become partners with the city to meet a very real need make good sense.  This also allows religious institutions to practice their faith in a very tangible way. Community based organizations would do this sensitively and respectfully out of love for their neighbors. They will live with this for the long term, so design in keeping with the neighborhood and a commitment to good relationships with neighbors will go a long way in addressing NIMBYISM.

#6: An overlay zone enabling churches to build affordable housing will allows for both  flexibility and certainly enabling sensitive solutions and designs for each site. Certain development standards will need to be addressed to provide enough flexibility for projects to be feasible. An overlay zone allows for the kind of certainly with flexibility to balance sensitivity to the project and the adjacent neighborhood in regard to appropriate densities and parking requirements to enhance the character of the neighborhood.

#7: An overlay zone for churches to build affordable housing minimized the money, risk and time for affordable housing developers. They cannot invest a great amount of time, money and risk into rezoning processes, and they will not take this time when there are other, simpler opportunities available in other cities.

#8: Because churches are throughout the city an overlay zone would spread affordable housing development through the city providing geographic equity and opportunity and investment in neighborhoods. The city would be wise to take advantage of this since so few sites exist especially in all areas of the city.  In Pasadena, for example, we estimate that there is capacity to build approximately 5,000 units of affordable housing on excess congregational land (the number of affordable units needed with the new RHNA numbers for the 2021-2028 Housing Element cycle). We know that not all congregations will do this, but the potential is significant. An overlay zone would ensure that any housing be built would be within city guidelines appropriate for each community. We must recognizing the power of congregations as allies with their excess land, missional orientation, and base of support in the community.  An overlay zone would help the city to go a long way toward meeting an urgent need.

#9:: Church attendance is declining, Gallop says that 69% of U.S. adults were members of a church in 1998-2000, compared with 52% in 2016-2018. This is particularly the case within land-rich older and mainline churches. Some churches are looking to off-load over-sized parking lots, high-maintenance buildings, and extra space. With shrinking congregations, many churches are unable to keep up. Affordable housing on church land has enabled churches to bless their communities, stay within mission, and help to prevent displacement due to the cost of housing, the very thing that is hurting many Pasadena churches.  Should a church feel called to consider affordable housing on their property, an overlay zone enabling churches desiring to have affordable housing on their property would provide a huge leap forward in addressing the housing crisis.

#10: Churches have a successful track record of partnering with affordable housing developers to provide affordable dwellings on their excess land. Some churches have already put parking lots, buildings constructed for congregations much larger than those of today, and other space on their properties to higher and better use by including affordable housing. In partnership with National Core (which developed Marv’s place in Pasadena, the UMC church in Santa Ana will be providing 95 units, half for families and half for those experiencing homelessness. Churches are doing this because they are called to serve the community and particularly its most vulnerable residents. Yet at the same time, they are also often able to generate a modest level of economic benefit that stabilizes these often struggling, but longstanding and critical institutions of our social fabric. In some cases, affordable housing developers have even provided additional parking for a church or developed other community serving uses on a site. Adopting an overlay zone that would enable churches, feeling so lead, to provide affordable housing on their property. Such a policy would make the process more straightforward, facilitate high quality partnerships with affordable housing developers to create much-needed affordable housing.

#11: Rezoning church land is one way that the city can make right with past sins of racial inequities that served to displace people of color.  With Urban renewal, a thriving African American neighborhood where Parsons now sits was displaced, moving them away from the city center, which today is zoned for 90 units per acre. They were not given the opportunity to capture the added value of the land from up-zoning, but instead encouraged to leave. Thriving Black communities and businesses on N. Fair Oaks were also displaced because of urban renewal. The 210 Freeway pushed out even more people of color. Too many families were not sufficiently remunerated for their property to again buy in Pasadena.  And if they wanted to, banks often would not provide them loans and they often were barred from obtaining private mortgage insurance. Due to significant displacement, one church has 8 members left. Several have closed. As one pastor put it, their church building is in Pasadena, but no one from their congregation can afford to live here anymore. Rezoning church land to allow for affordable housing would serve to prevent more displacement and correct past sins.  Some Black churches are eager to provide affordable housing on their underutilized land, please allow them to do so.

#12: Churches are and have been for many years an indispensable part of our City’s social fabric and have dedicated themselves to feeding the homeless, tutoring children, raising the City’s youth, keeping people in their homes. This history of investment in the community and neighbors creates a perfect marriage with new neighbors living in affordable housing on their property.

#13:   Churches are and have been for many years an indispensable part of our City’s social fabric and but many today are on the ropes because of long term trends, COVID-19 and today some need ways to generate income and reduce expenses to be able to continue in their mission. Affordable housing on their property can do just that.

#14:  An Overlay Zone is a locally-focused solution that will do a better job than proposed state legislation. A local solution designed by the community enables us to craft the kind of creative neighborhood-based housing solutions that enhance the design, beauty and character of our city.

Bert Newton shares his story as a housing justice advocate

24 Nov

bert headshotMy father was a pastor with small churches and small salaries. He was also a missionary, and when I was 8 years old, we lived in the country of Jordan. We lived next to a hillside where people lived in dire poverty, in makeshift shacks.

Later, in Tennessee, right after desegregation in the mid 70’s, I saw the racialization of poverty in the U.S. I remember at school hearing white kids asking black kids what they were getting for Christmas, and the black kids having to explain that they weren’t getting anything because their parents could buy them anything.

In my home the Jesus story was revered, so I took it seriously and committed by life to Christ when I was seven. I knew that Jesus cared about poverty and wealth. I read that Jesus said, “blessed are you who are poor…but woe to you who are rich.” And he laid down his life for all people. I understood all that as a child.

Later, my studies in seminary led me to understand Jesus as a radical peasant leader of a movement for justice.

The gospel gave me hope, but looking around at a world filled with injustice I often felt hopeless.

Then, in 2000, I found this very diverse group of people organizing for affordable housing in Pasadena. They were advocating something called an “inclusionary housing ordinance” that would compel housing developers to set aside a portion of the units as affordable to moderate, low, and very low-income households.

I joined the group.

That group evolved into Making Housing and Community Happen.

We won that first campaign.

But even more than winning, my hope was lifted by seeing people come together to work for justice, demonstrating love and compassion for their neighbors.

We have continued winning victories, and that gives me hope too. In 2018 we won a campaign to build 69 units of permanent supportive housing for seniors experiencing homelessness. In 2019 we won an even stronger inclusionary ordinance.

Then we received a grant that funds my current position, and now I’m building a network through local faith congregations, deepening our roots in the community and building the power we need to transform our city.

I get to use my training in the Jesus story, training from my childhood and from seminary, to work with churches.

I find that most churches already care about their neighbors and are doing things about it. Several churches in Pasadena have food and/or shelter programs. One church provides nine units of affordable housing, another provides around a quarter of a million dollars in rental assistance to families every year!!

I get to talk with them about how their work is the work of the Gospel and how this work now gives them the moral authority to speak for justice. Through this work we are building community and transforming our city, so that one day we will realize the vision of the prophet Micah where everyone has a home to live in with no one to make them afraid!

Click here to watch Bert tell his housing justice story.

How to support affordable senior housing at the Pasadena Civic Center

18 Oct

We have wonderful news! Thanks in part to advocates like us, the City Council will be deciding to enter into negotiations with National Core’s senior affordable housing proposal. See the beautiful renderings below of 112 affordable senior housing units with 10% for homeless seniors with the potential of more. 

We invite you to email Pasadena City Council for vote for this important decision anytime between now and two hours before the City Council Agenda Monday:  Oct. 19th. If you wish to submit a comment that will be read outload, please do so at 2:00 pm on Monday.  It’s number 18 on the agenda. See instructions below on how to submit a letter or comments.  Consider this as a letter of encouragement and thanks: 

Dear Mayor and City Council members,

My name is ________. [Say something about yourself, like, “I’m a retired teacher and I currently attend All Saints Church or I’ve lived in East Pasadena for the last ten years.”] I care deeply about ending homelessness and poverty in our city because____________________________________.

That’s why I’m pleased that the City Council has decided to have affordable housing in the Civic Center near to City Hall and is currently considering a proposal for 112 units of affordable housing for seniors, with at least 10% set aside for those experiencing homelessness. Please approve this proposal so that we can have much needed affordable housing in the heart of our City. Affordable housing helps prevent our elderly neighbors from falling into homelessness. Setting aside 10% of the unites for unhoused seniors will bring much needed relief.  According to the latest homeless count, 30% of those experiencing homelessness in our city are over 55 years old. 

Thanks for all you’ve done to help reduce our homeless count by 22% in the last two years, and over half in the last ten years. I’m proud of our city for taking effective action to reduce homelessness and poverty.

After you’ve personalized this letter and added your own thoughts, please send it to the City Council in one of the following ways. (Scroll down or see attachment for more details about the National Core proposal.)

Members of the public may submit comments of any length up to two hours prior to the start of the meeting, at the following email address:  

correspondence@cityofpasadena.net

Please be aware that, while these comments will be provided to the members of the body and will become part of the meeting record, they will not be read aloud. Any comment submitted in this fashion will be forwarded to the legislative body prior to the start of the meeting.

During the meeting, members of the public may submit up to 200 words regarding items on the agenda, at the following webpage:

www.cityofpasadena.net/city-clerk/public-comment

If you wish your comments to be read aloud during the meeting, please indicate so on the form. If you submit more than one form, only the first one received will be read aloud.  The City reserves the right to summarize comments if necessary for the orderly and timely flow of the meeting. All comments in their entirety will become part of the meeting record and will be forwarded to the legislative body.

Details on the project can be found at:  http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2020%20Agendas/Oct_19_20/AR%2026.pdf

See below or Click here for Pasadena Civic Center National Core Proposal Fact Sheet Oct 2020 Printer Friendly-1 (1).

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