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:

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

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.

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