Rent Control Provides Stability, Protects Seniors and People of Color

5 Nov

By Jill Shook, Co-founding Director of Making Housing and Community Happen (MHCH)

My friend Diowanni Tate, a transplant from Jackson, Mississippi, called me for help. She said, “On Friday, July 1st, around 9:00 a.m. I received an eviction notice along with my fellow tenants. The anxiety associated with being told you have 60-days to vacate the premises without any regard of your next home was extremely stressful and for some traumatic. As a four-year resident, I thought I had found my home-sweet-home here in Pasadena partly because I didn’t think I would experience some of the ugly issues my parents and grandparents faced during the Civil Rights era regarding housing.”

Her corporate landlord along with other corporate landlords in Pasadena had evited over 100 tenants so they could do renovations and jack up the rents. I told Diowanni that this was illegal because of an LA County Covid law. Then I advised her to contact the Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU). PTU organized the tenants to write letters to their landlord about the LA County law. They staged a press conference with those who had been illegally evicted. The very next day Diowanni’s landlord rescinded Diowanni’s her notice!

When the tenants contacted Pasadena’s city officials, many were advised to apply for relocation funds with a minimal focus on knowing their rights with this County law that protects tenants from no-fault evictions until the end of 2022.

Despite stories like these, some of our elected leaders are saying that tenants already have all the protection they need from our city, and that they can count on Pasadena to hold landlords accountable. But this has not been the experience of Diowanni and others.  

Michelle White, Bert Newton, and I tried to have rent control and just cause eviction passed in Pasadena over 20 years ago. The City Council didn’t support rent control then, and today the only City Council member to support it is Jess Rivas.  In contrast, in Baldwin Park the City Council voted it in. In the fall of 2021, the Mayor’s Housing Task Force called on the Council to support rent control to no avail. With such lack of Council support in Pasadena, PTU knew that the initiative process was the only way to get it passed. We all got busy supporting the campaign collecting approximately 20,0000 signatures (15,000 were valid but only 13,000 were needed—these are especially impressive numbers considering that this was during the Omicron surge). When I was collecting signature, I was happy to see a number of landlords sign the petition, which will provide clear guidelines for what is a reasonable rent increase.

There is overwhelming public support for Measure H: over 60 organizations have endorsed rent control, including the Abundant Housing, ACLU, ACT, CHIRLA, the Clergy Community Coalition, Foothill Democrats, The League of Women Voters, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Making Housing and Community Happen, NDALON, POP!, PTA, PUSD, Southern Cal Public Service Workers, Union Station, and many more.

Most of the $280,000 funding to oppose rent control come from corporate landlords, including from Apartment Associations based in Chicago. Expensive, and misleading negative ads are filling our mailboxes. Don’t be fooled.

At one point the opponents of rent control caused me to have some doubts. When I assigned my MA Social Work students at Azusa Pacific University to debate rent control, I also dove deep into the research. What a fun surprise it was to learn that even Beverly Hills has rent control. I more I studied, the more I fully convinced that this policy is essential for society today, but sadly has a bad reputation based on misinformation. 

Some opponents of rent control cite a Stanford paper The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landlords and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco, taking its negative conclusions about rent control as gospel. However, as Dean Preston and Shanti Singh point out in the Shelterforce Magazine, “The Stanford paper fully supports the conclusion that rent control works to keep people in their homes: We find that rent control increased the probability a renter stayed at their address by close to 20 percent.’ The stabilizing effects are ‘significantly stronger among older households and among households that have already spent a number of years at their treated [rent controlled] address.’ In other words, seniors and long-term tenants find longer-term stability because of rent control” Because seniors are the fastest-growing segment of our homeless population, keeping seniors affordably housed also helps keep them from becoming homeless.

Furthermore, the Stanford study shows that Black and Hispanic households are 10% more likely to stay in their rent-controlled apartments than white households. This data has profound racial justice implications for Pasadena where 56% of the African American population has been displaced since 1990 primarily due to soaring rents and gentrification. Rent stabilization could help prevent the exodus of people of color from our city.

That’s why Pastor Kerwin Manning, an African American leader in our city, said: “I’d be very surprised if you found a pastor not in favor of rent control. Our members don’t even live here anymore. At least 75% of congregants were forced to move because of higher and higher rents.”

Opponents of rent control say that the rent control board is costly and not accountable. This isn’t true. Members of the rent control board will be chosen by the City Council. Furthermore, the Board will be funded through a small fee (approximately $11 to $15 per unit per month) paid by the landlord, not by taxpayers. (In contrast, our city uses our tax dollars to ensure that restaurants are inspected to meet health and safety standards). This fee will not be onerous to Mom-and-Pop landlords and is a small price to pay to protect tenants.

Terry Tornek says that rent control will prevent new development, but this is not the case since state law dictates that rent control can only apply to apartments built before 1995. Development has been robust in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, two cities with strong rent control ordinances. What stops development are onerous zoning laws, not rent control.

Rent control is one of a long list of tools needed to stabilize society and prevent people like my friend Diowanni and so many others from living in fear of unjust evictions and unreasonable rent increases. Over 60% of Pasadena residents are renters. They need and deserve the kind of protection that Measure H (rent control) provides.

To solve our homelessness and housing crisis, we need to unite for housing justice. That’s the theme of our annual celebration, to which you are invited. See


·        “Dear Business School Professors: You’re Wrong, Rent Control Works.” By Dean Preston and Shanti Singh. Shelterforce, March 28, 2018/

·        Shane Phillips, The Affordable City, p. 108.


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