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How Our Family Came to Have Housing Stability in Pasadena by Morgan Duff Tucker

5 Sep

Besides being the Office Assistant for Making Housing & Community Happen and a lover of Spongebob Squarepants, I am a Pasadena native through and through. It’s one of the things that defines me. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood, on the same block, in the same house since I was three-years-old. I like to think I have a great relationship with my house. I love it and it’s been good to me. However, as with all great relationships, it helps to take a step back every now and again to consider that the other person (or in this case house)  lived a full and interesting life before I came along. When Jill asked me to write my “housing story” I was intrigued by the prospect of digging into my home’s past. I immediately set up an unofficial interview with my mom to get the inside scoop on how we came to own our home. I thought I already knew the story, but in reality I had no idea. What I learned left me surprised and deeply humbled by God’s grace, and how the Love of Christ motivated one special woman to come alongside my family in an amazing way.

Morgan Tucker - Photo

Me – Morgan Duff Tucker

My Housing Story by Morgan Duff Tucker

My housing story began before I was born. In the summer of 1987, my parents packed their car to the brim with everything they owned, and kissed New Jersey goodbye. They were young, in love, and excited to get away from their family, who had a funny habit of over involving themselves in my parent’s lives. After a week of driving, my mom and dad made it to California. Shortly after, they moved into a rundown apartment in Hollywood. They had big dreams, but very little money. Four years later, I was born, and I’m told the money situation got worse. To top it off, by that time, my grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, his wife and his baby had all decided to leave New Jersey, and follow my parents to California where they once again became overly involved in their lives. Old habits die hard.

At one point, we all rented a cramped, little two-bedroom house together. Although it was a roof over our head, it wasn’t enough space for three, growing families. Our living arrangements had to change, and that’s where my mom came in. She had always dreamed of owning a home before she was thirty, and if she was going to meet that goal, she only had a couple of years left. Unfortunately, my parent’s finances were a mess, and they didn’t know the first thing about becoming homebuyers. It was around that time when my mom was hired to work for Sandra Knox. Sandra was the executive director of Pasadena Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS). She was an amazing woman, and a tireless advocate for the underrepresented in her community. I eventually came to know her as the lady who gave me M&Ms, and who always left toys around the office for me to play with. Sandra Knox equipped my mom with the knowledge and skills she needed to find a suitable house for us, and coached her every step of the way. It was a long, and arduous process, but in 1994, when I was three-years-old, we moved into our home at 830 N. Pasadena ave.

From that point on, I can speak about my housing story from my own experience. Overall, it’s been characterized by peace and security. My extended family eventually followed us to our new home, and we finally had the space to welcome them with open arms. My grandpa, a talented carpenter, even converted the garage on our property into an ADU. Over the years, many of my relatives have used that ADU as a starter home, and now it’s the home I share with my husband. There have been many struggles since my parents bought our home, but as of today, we expect the house to be fully paid off by 2021. As I reflect on my housing story, I am grateful to God for inspiring Sandra Knox, and others who share her spirit of coming alongside those in need of a home. I’m happy to be a part of GPAHG today because I know this organization has that same spirit. I’m excited to enter the next chapter of my housing story, and pray I will continue to have opportunities to be a blessing to others, as others have been a blessing to me.

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An African American Perspective on the Housing Crisis, and White House Efforts to Address it

8 Jul

Jill and I live in a neighborhood that was once predominantly African American and now has become gentrified, with Latinos and whites replacing many of the long-term African American residents. Approximately one quarter of African American residents have left our city in the past 15 years, largely because of soaring housing prices. We know only too well how hard it is for African Americans to purchase and keep a home. That’s why we are sharing this article written by Charlene Crowell and published in the July 4th issue of the  Pasadena Journal, a locally owned and operated African American newspaper. It presents a perspective worth keeping in mind: our nation’s housing crisis has had a much more severe impact on the African American community than on whites because of policies that are either racially biased or don’t take into account the historical legacy of racism in our country. As people of faith, we are called to treat all people without “partiality” and to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, regardless of skin color, socio-economic background, or ethnicity (see Galatian 3:28 and James 2:1).

A Harvard report finds that only 36% of all consumers could afford to buy their own home in 2018. With higher priced homes in 2019, the affordability challenge worsens.

“It is equally noteworthy that once again this key report shares how consumers of color continue to face challenges in becoming homeowners, noted Nikitra Bailey, an EVP with the Center for Responsible Lending. “According to the report, only 43% of Blacks and 47% of Latinos own their own home, while white homeownership remains at 73%.

“This 30% disparity deserves further examination and proportional remedies,” continued Bailey. “Greater access to safe and affordable credit, better fair housing enforcement, preservation of anti-discrimination laws – including disparate impact – can play a role in eliminating homeownership gaps. Further, as the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are publicly debated, a renewed commitment to serve all creditworthy borrowers must be embraced.”

Calvin Schermerhorn, a professor of history in Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and author of The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860, holds similar views to those expressed by Bailey. In a recent Washington Post op ed column, Schermerhorn addressed the historic disparities that Black America continues to suffer.

“One-fifth of African American families have a net worth of $0 or below; 75 % have less than $10,000 for retirement,” wrote Schermerhorn. “The enduring barriers to black economic equality are structural rather than individual…. “Escalators into the middle class have slowed and stalled, and the rung of the economic ladder one starts on is most likely where one will end up.”

On the same day as the Harvard report’s release, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that establishes a new advisory body that will be led by HUD Secretary Ben Carson. A total of eight federal agencies will work with state and local government officials to remove “burdensome governmental regulations” affecting affordable housing.“Increasing the supply of housing by removing overly burdensome rules and regulations will reduce housing costs, boost economic growth, and provide more Americans with opportunities for economic mobility,” stated Secretary Carson.

If Secretary Carson means that local zoning rules favor single family homes over multi-family developments is a fundamental public policy flaw, he may be on to something. However, this focus misses the crux of the affordable housing crisis: Wages are not rising in line with increasing housing costs. And now, after the housing industry continues to cater to more affluent consumers, while many older adults choose to age in place, the market has very little to offer those who want their own American Dream, including some who are anxiously awaiting the chance to form their own households.

Builders have historically, not just of late, complained about the time it takes to secure permits or the series of inspections that must be approved during construction and before properties can be listed for sale. What is missing from this new initiative is a solution to the financial challenges that average people face.

It was scant regulation and regulatory voids that enabled risky mortgage products with questionable terms that took our national economy to the brink of financial collapse with worldwide effects. Taxpayer dollars to rescue financiers while many unnecessary foreclosures stripped away home equity and wealth from working families.

Time will tell whether new advisors and proposals remember the lessons from the Great Recession.

https://pasadenajournal.com/will-white-house-advisory-council-act-to-end-americas-affordable-housing-crisis/

California just added baby teeth to its housing laws

8 Jul

“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”–Isaiah 65:21

Jill worked very hard to help the city of Pasadena to craft one of the best Housing Elements in the state. The HE sets guidelines so that cities can meet their housing goals for different income levels, based on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Currently cities are required to plan to meet these goals (through zoning and other means); they aren’t required to actually meet them. And if they don’t plan for these goals, there are few consequences. The Governor’s latest bill provides some teeth-the LA Times calls them “baby teeth”–to enforce these laws. This is a baby step in the right direction. We need laws that will encourage people to “build houses and inhabit them” rather than prevent housing from being built in order to preserve the “character” of a city.

In January, not even a week into his new job, Gov. Gavin Newsom made a big, bold threat to cities that have stalled or shirked their responsibility to build enough housing to meet their community’s needs.

Don’t build housing? You won’t get state transportation dollars, the governor warned.

Six months later, Newsom is settling for a more incremental, but still necessary, change. The Legislature is expected to sign off this week on a bill that would allow a judge to impose steep fines — up to $600,000 a month — on cities that willfully flout the state’s “fair share” housing law, which requires that jurisdictions plan and zone for enough market-rate and affordable housing to meet population growth.

Note one big difference: Newsom originally wanted to hold cities responsible for actually producing enough housing to meet state goals. The compromise with the Legislature merely requires them to plan for enough housing.

 

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-newsom-housing-compromise-20190705-story.html

Let California’s homeless community college students park overnight in school lots

8 Jul

“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”–Isaiah 3:18

Jill and I have been concerned for some time about the problem of homelessness facing nearly 20% of community college students. We’ve seen and talked to homeless community college students who were hanging out in our neighborhood. We know a dean at PCC who is doing what she can to address this problem. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions, apart from more affordable housing. So it’s heartening to hear that a bill is being considered by the state legislature that would allow community college students to sleep in their cars overnight in school parking lots. This isn’t an ideal solution but it’s a step in the right direction. We’d like to see a caseworker assigned to students facing homelessness who could help them to be housed.

Homelessness has come to California’s public colleges, just as it has to every other institution in the state. In the community college system, a recent report found that 19% of nearly 40,000 students surveyed had been homeless at some point during the previous year. Some community college campuses have food banks, and all are required by law to make showers in their athletic facilities available to homeless students. But few of the 114 community college campuses offer housing to any of their 2.1 million students, let alone homeless ones.

So Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) has come up with a creative idea: Why not let homeless students who live in their cars park overnight on campus? Although that’s not a solution for homelessness, it would offer a short-term fix for homeless students with cars who are already working on a long-term answer — getting a college degree to broaden their options and increase their earning power.

 

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-homeless-community-college-students-parking-20190708-story.html

10 policies that can help solve our nation’s housing crisis

5 Jul

I gave a  PowerPoint presentation on Housing Justice  at the Friday Forum of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) and was very grateful for the positive response. A Methodist pastor approached me and wants to learn more, and asked how the Methodist Church can become more involved.  I told him that  Jill is an excellent teacher and is willing to give workshops and lead housing justice institutes. Jill has helped me  as well as many others to understand the spiritual and religious dimensions of our housing crisis, and what policies work and will make a difference. I’m glad that Jill and I are partners in “Making Housing and Community Happen.” While Jill focuses mainly on Christian churches, I have connections in the interfaith community. To solve our housing crisis, we believe that people of diverse faiths need to work together. 

You can see my PowerPoint at: Housing Justice: Decent and Affordable Housing for All is Possible, Si, Se Puede!

Slide1

Part of my talk was live streamed. You can see it at: Video of my ICUJP Presentation on Housing Justice

Here are 10 policies that can help end our nation’s housing crisis:

  • Increase government funding of affordable housing.. Elizabeth Warren has called for $500 billion to be spent on affordable housing for the next ten years—a huge sum until you realize that was the amount that Trump increased the military budget, and few said, “We can’t afford it.”[1] Such an investment in housing and jobs is not impossible. When Congress passed the Housing Act of 1968, it committed the nation to the goal of producing 2.6 million units of housing a year, including 600,000 annually for low-income families. As a result, in the early 1970s we were close to meeting the need for affordable housing, but since then HUD and other programs for housing have been cut every year, even though the need has increased.
  • Make housing a right, like the right to medical care and food, and provide vouchers to everyone who can’t afford market rate rent. This policy was recommended by Mathew Desmond, author of Pulitzer-Prize winner book Evicted; it needs to be combined with the building of more affordable housing with government support.[2]
  • Require that cities increase density and allow duplexes, four-plexes and accessory dwelling units in all residential areas. Many major cities, including LA, make it illegal to build multifamily residences on 75% or more of city land.[3] This is a major reason that housing costs have soared. The Oregon legislature is considering a law that would end zoning exclusively for single-family homes in most of the state. California lawmakers have drafted a bill that would effectively do the same. In December, the Minneapolis City Council voted to end single-family zoning citywide.
  • Require that permanent supportive housing be built by right and allow motels to be converted to homeless housing. Such laws are being enacted at the local and state level. They need to be passed statewide and enforced.[4]
  • Pass inclusionary housing ordinances that require a percentage of units be set aside as affordable. This policy has created or preserved over 1000 affordable units in Pasadena. Nationally, inclusionary housing policies have generated between 129,000 and 150,000 units, mostly in California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey In California, between 1999-2007, inclusionary housing programs generated 29,281 affordable units, just 2% of total units authorized for construction in the state during that time.[5]
  • Pass a “homeless bill of rights” that prevent homeless people from being driven out of cities through punitive ordinances and laws. Rhode Island has such a law and the California state legislature considered but didn’t approve one.[6]
  • Allow rent control and tenant protection.
  • Provide free legal aid to tenants facing eviction.
  • Adequate relocation compensation for those who face eviction without just cause.
  • Eliminate mortgage interest deductions on second homes and homes worth more than $1 million and channel that money to affordable housing. This tax break benefits the rich and doesn’t encourage home ownership. That’s why most affordable housing groups who had called for reform, like the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, propose that the savings from reforming the mortgage-interest deduction be invested back into housing for low and moderate-income people.

[1] https://www.npr.org/2019/06/21/734143716/2020-democrats-offer-up-affordable-housing-plans-amid-surging-prices

[2] https://www.zillow.com/research/desmond-eviction-homelessness-15858/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/18/upshot/cities-across-america-question-single-family-zoning.html?ref=oembed

[4] https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-homeless-housing-ordinances-20180411-story.html

[5] https://www.urbandisplacement.org/sites/default/files/images/urbandisplacementproject_inclusionaryhousingbrief_feb2016_revised.pdf

[6] https://wraphome.org/what/homeless-bill-of-rights/california-right-to-rest-act/

To find out how you can influence national housing  policy, check out:

National Low Income Housing Coalition 

National Fair Housing Alliance 

At the California state level, check out:

Low Income Housing Coalition of California

California Housing Partnership 

California Housing Consortium 

 

Rent Control Could Be Back on the Ballot

27 Jun

rent in too damn high

 

Jill and I were active during the recent rent control campaign here in Pasadena because we feel it is good policy that is consistent with Christian ethics: “good news for the poor.” We see how greedy landlords have been gouging tenants with rent increases as high as $500 or more a month, and it’s perfectly legal to do so. Speculators are buying up apartment buildings,  jacking up rents, and driving out low-income residents. And it’s perfectly legal. Our City Council opposes rent control, but the majority of voters in our city support it. That’s not surprising since most Pasadena residents are renters. The Pasadena Tenants’ Union plans to have another ballot initiative on rent control in Pasadena, and GPAHG will be supporting this campaign. To learn more and get involved with the Pasadena Tenants Union, see http://www.pasadenatenantsunion.com/

Here’s an article from today’s LA TIMES describing the latest rent control initiative:

Proponents and opponents of rent control are prepping for another California ballot fight next year after the sponsor of a failed 2018 initiative was cleared to begin collecting signatures for a second try.

The new initiative, backed by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, would similarly allow cities and counties to implement stricter rent control policies than currently allowed under state law. Michael Weinstein, the foundation’s president, said continuing increases in rents are leading to California’s recent surge in its homeless population and hurting millions of struggling tenants.

The prospect of another rent control battle comes less than eight months after voters soundly rejected a previous measure on the ballot. Nearly 60% opposed Proposition 10, which would have repealed the state’s current limitations on rent control. The campaign topped $100 million with landlord groups out-raising the foundation and tenant groups more than 3 to 1.

Rent Control could be back on the ballot

Democratic candidates speak out about our nation’s housing crisis

24 Jun

 While Jill and I try to be nonpartisan in our housing justice advocacy, we feel it’s important to let people know where our elected officials stand when it comes to affordable housing. For this reason, we will share with you what the candidates are proposing. First, it is worth noting that Trump is proposing drastic cuts to affordable housing. See Trump Proposes Cuts to Affordable Housing.  As people of faith, we believe that our current housing crisis calls for more funding for affordable and homeless housing. As Jesus said,  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). Here is where some of the Democratic candidates stand:

  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls for a $500 billion federal investment over the next 10 years in new affordable housing. She says her plan would create 3 million new units and lower rents by 10%. Warren would also give grants to first-time homebuyers who live in areas where black families were once excluded from getting home loans. “Everybody who lives or lived in a formerly red-lined district can get some housing assistance now to be able to buy a home,” Warren told attendees at the She the People Presidential Forum in Houston this spring.

  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker would provide financial incentives to encourage local governments to get rid of zoning laws that limit the construction of affordable housing. He would also provide a renters’ tax credit, legal assistance for tenants facing eviction and protect against housing discrimination, something he’s made part of his personal appeal. “When I was a baby, my parents tried to move us into a neighborhood with great public schools, but realtors wouldn’t sell us a home because of the color of our skin,” Booker recounts in an online campaign video.

  • Sen. Kamala Harris has also introduced a plan for a renters’ tax credit of up to $6,000 for families making $100,000 or less.

  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has signed on to both the Harris and Warren plans, which have been introduced as legislation.

See Democratic Candidates on affordable housing

Blind to the Housing Crisis

22 Jun

When Jesus proclaimed his mission, he said that he had come to “preach good news to the poor” and “sight to the blind” ( Luke 4:18). As this LA Times editorial makes clear, in order to address our state’s housing crisis, cities need to zone for enough housing to meet the needs of all its residents, not just high end and single-family residents. Unfortunately, the California Assn. of Governments seems to be blind to this crisis. We need to help our elected officials see the dire effects of unaffordable housing and increasing homelessness, so that cities can do something about this growing crisis. –Anthony

Southern California is mired in a housing affordability and homelessness crisis that is undermining the region’s quality of life and threatening its economic prosperity. But local elected leaders apparently haven’t gotten the memo or simply don’t care.

How else to explain a recent vote by the board of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is composed of city and county elected officials from across the region, that vastly underestimates the number of homes needed to ease the existing shortage and to house the next generation of Californians.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-fair-share-housing-scag-20190621-story.html

 

“Investors” are buying homes, jacking up prices

22 Jun

“Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field,  until no place is left and you live alone in the land.” Isaiah 5:8.

 The prophet Isaiah makes it clear that God is not pleased with the rich who speculate in land and leave the poor landless and homeless. Yet this is what is happening in America today. “Investors” are grabbing homes and making it increasingly difficult for home buyers to find an affordable home. Another example of how the “free market” is exacerbating our nation’s housing crisis. Has the time come for the government to start building affordable homes, as it did in the 1970s? What would Jesus and the prophets call on us to do? –Anthony

A confluence of factors — rising construction costs, restrictive zoning rules and shifting consumer preferences, among others — has already led to a scarcity of affordably priced housing in many big cities. Investors, fueled by Wall Street capital, are snapping up much of what remains.

“If it weren’t bad enough out there for first-time home buyers, the additional competition from investors is increasingly pushing starter homes out of the reach of many households,” said Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, a provider of real estate data.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/20/business/economy/starter-homes-investors.html

Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot

22 Jun

I have felt led to post articles on affordable housing which are appearing with increasing regularity since our nation is undergoing a housing crisis. This article by

Single-family zoning is practically gospel in America, embraced by homeowners and local governments to protect neighborhoods of tidy houses from denser development nearby.

But a number of officials across the country are starting to make seemingly heretical moves. The Oregon legislature this month will consider a law that would end zoning exclusively for single-family homes in most of the state. California lawmakers have drafted a bill that would effectively do the same. In December, the Minneapolis City Council voted to end single-family zoning citywide. The Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Julián Castro have taken up the cause, too.

A reckoning with single-family zoning is necessary, they say, amid mounting crises over housing affordability, racial inequality and climate change. But take these laws away, many homeowners fear, and their property values and quality of life will suffer. The changes, opponents in Minneapolis have warned, amount to nothing less than an effort to “bulldoze” their neighborhoods.

Today the effect of single-family zoning is far-reaching: It is illegal on 75 percent of the residential land in many American cities to build anything other than a detached single-family home.

 

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