Affordable Housing Update for March 25th: A Win for Tenants’ Rights!

28 Mar

From March 25th, 2022

Rent Control advocates have submitted the signatures needed to have a charter amendment on the November 2022 ballot! This is a huge win for housing justice advocates and for the 62% of Pasadena households who are renters.

The proposal to rezone church land for affordable housing is moving along. The Planning Commission will meet with City Council in April with it’s recommendations, and City Council will meet to discusses the rezoning in May. If you are able and willing to speak at either of these meetings, or if you’re interested in writing emails to city leaders, please contact Bert at bert@makinghousinghappen.org.

Michelle White is a local Pasadenan with a passion for housing justice. She is the executive director of Affordable Housing Services and was a founding member of the grassroots affordable housing action group, which eventually turned into MHCH! Books could be written about Michelle’s story and passion and successes, both locally and nationally. Click here to learn more!

Affordable Housing Update for March 18th: Victories Abound in the Pursuit of Affordable Housing!

21 Mar

From March 18th, 2022

Rent Control advocates have exceeded their goal of obtaining 13,336 signatures needed for their petition! To learn how to join the campaign, donate, volunteer, or sign the petition, please click here.

The proposal to rezone church land for affordable housing is back on the Planning Commission agenda for this Wednesday, March 23rd. The City Council will discuss this recommendation in May, and MHCH is eager to see the fruits of this long road to justice. If you are able and willing to speak this Wednesday, or if you’re interested in writing emails to city leaders, please contact Bert at bert@makinghousinghappen.org.

We continue to celebrate women this month and always. Click here to read more about significant women, locally and nationally, who have contributed greatly to the movement to make housing affordable to all.

Love your city and everyone in it, as Jesus did…That’s the core value of MHCH

16 Mar

Jill tapped me late last night to do the devotion for MHCH’s bi-monthly Leadership Team meeting. She said, “Read our Core Values and come up with a Scripture passage that relates to it.” It’s been quite a while since I reviewed our core values and I was moved by this one:

We are faith-rooted, each of us operating from our own faith perspective and pursuing justice in a spirit of respect for each other, love for our city, and especially for the most vulnerable. All are welcome, including those without religious faith. We believe everyone reflects God’s image. What would a policy look like where everyone is valued and seen as precious?

I love the idea that all are welcome in MHCH. It reminds me of the scripture passage that was read during this Sunday worship service at the Methodist Church where Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and he laments, 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Jesus loves Jerusalem so much that he later weeps over her—the only other time that Jesus weeps was at the death of his friend Lazarus. Clearly Jesus loves this city with all its flaws, even knowing that the leaders of Jerusalem would kill him. I feel God has called us to love our city in the same way even when our leaders sometimes give us a hard time. Jesus doesn’t say, “I want to gather all the good people under my wing.” He is totally inclusive. He wants to gather everyone, rich, poor, religious folks and sinners. But Jesus has a special love for the poor, the sinners, the sick and the outcast. That’s also our approach at MHCH.

Entry by Anthony Manousos, Co-founder of MHCH

Pasadena violates law regarding SB 9 and tries to prevent homeowners from creating less expensive homes on their lots

16 Mar

“To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

Pasadena is a city with huge disparities between rich and poor, and many of the rich would like to keep our city just the way it is. Even though low-income people, and people of color, are being displaced because the median home price is now one million dollars, many wealthy homeowners and their allies on the City Council oppose a law that would help create less expensive homes and allow some of the “missing middle” (teachers, city workers, etc.) to live in the city where they work. Those who oppose SB 9 need to be reminded of what Jesus said: “Those to whom much is given, much will be required.” This applies to homeowners like Jill and me. Jill bought our home for $140,000 in 1993 and now it’s worth $900,000. We’ve been “given much” thanks to soaring housing costs (caused in part by policies that limit density) and now we want to make sure that others can have what we have: an affordable home.

SB 9 is a law that allows homeowners to split their lots and create additional units which will undoubtedly be less costly than current homes in Pasadena (which now average one million dollars)  because they will be smaller and on smaller lots. We at MHCH support this law and want the city to find ways to make it work for our city, as was done with the state laws regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). (Pasadena’s City Council fiercely opposed ADUs, until state law forced the city to drop restrictions and allow them. Now Pasadena proudly embraces ADUs and for good reasons: many are building them for family members and are providing “naturally occurring affordable housing”.)

Cities like Pasadena that oppose SB 9 have catered to the fears of wealthy homeowners and ignored studies showing that this law will not drastically change or harm single-family neighborhoods. Elected officials have tried to thwart the law by declaring areas of the city “landmark districts” so these areas can be exempt from compliance. This article makes it clear that what Pasadena is doing is illegal. We hope that our city will try to see the value of this law and adopt policies like the ones adopted for ADUs that will encourage homeowners to make new units as affordable as possible.

Less than a month before the state law took effect, Pasadena, a Southern California city of roughly 140,000 people, passed an ordinance that among other restrictions allows officials to exempt eligible areas by declaring them “landmark districts.”

But no such exemption exists under the law, Bonta said.

The ordinance “undermines SB 9 and denies residents the opportunity to create sorely needed additional housing, under the guise of protecting ‘landmark districts,’” Bonta said in a statement. “This is disappointing and, more importantly, violates state law.”

https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-california-legislature-sacramento-265e6ce2e5ac1d5bff6c5b2cd4d5baaf

Entry by Anthony Manousos, Co-founder of MHCH

How to Speak Out About Affordable Housing Policies To Address Our City’s Housing Crisis

14 Mar

Your Testimony Could Help Shape the Next Eight Years of Pasadena’s Housing. Here’s how….

“The Pasadena Housing Task Force workshops will discuss and gather feedback on future growth in the Pasadena, the status of the Housing Element, and the state’s comments on the draft Housing Element,” a news release states. “Following these two meetings, City staff will refine the Housing Element based on feedback and conduct public hearings with the Planning Commission and City Council for adoption of the Housing Element.”

The virtual meetings can be viewed at:

      March 30, 6-8 p.m.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86763581903

  • What: City-sponsored meetings to discuss the 2021-2029 Housing Element which plans the next eight years of housing policy. Your input is invited!
  • When:  Wednesday, March 30, from 6-8 p.m. via Zoom.

If you’re not spoken at a public meeting before, we can help you. For talking points, contact Bert@makinghousinghappen.org or 626-993-7958. If you can’t make it to the meeting, email David Reyes  at davidreyes@cityofpasadena.net. David Reyes is director of the Planning Department.

When you speak or write to elected officials about the Policies recommended by the Pasadena Affordable Housing Coalition, please feel free to use some of these talking points. They explain how these policies will help our city’s low-income residents and keep our city racially and socio-economically diverse and vibrant. This is Pasadena’s vision as expressed in its Housing Element:

“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.”

It is up to us to ensure that our elected officials take this vision seriously and make affordable housing happen.

Zoning Solutions

Why is zoning important? Zoning determines what can be built, where, and at what height, density, and type. Every inch of our city is zoned and planned, but this was not always so. Zoning laws began in the 1920s and were often used to create single-family neighborhoods with larger lots and separate them from higher density multi-family housing (where lower-income people lived and were often people of color). This separation served wealthier, mostly white residents. Later racial covenants were attached to homes and redlining by banks further segregated people of color into certain parts of the city. Zoning also had good intentions, such as restricting industrial uses to one part of the city away from homes, but sadly people of color often had no choice but to live next to these toxic industrial zones. Today’s zoning maps should be inclusive of all income levels with racial barriers eliminated. The zoning policies below seek to do just that.

Rezoning Congregational Land for Affordable Housing.  Many churches have underutilized land and want to use it to bless the community with affordable housing but are unable to do so they aren’t zoned properly.  We need to rezone religious property citywide so congregations can build affordable housing at sufficient density to make it financially feasible. We need to have clear, predetermined development standards regarding height, density, and scale so developers can undertake a project with confidence that it won’t be rejected for political reasons. We need a zoning amendment that is crafted to be unique to each area of the city and sensitive to site/neighborhood context. See this factsheet for more information on rezoning congregational land.

Housing Overlay Zone.: We need to rethink land use in our city to make it easier and less expensive to build affordable housing. A housing overlay zone provides a package of incentives to developers who include in their projects homes that people can afford. They are called “overlay” zones because they layer on top of established base zoning regulations, leaving in place opportunities for property owners to develop within these existing rules. Let’s make sure that these affordable housing zones are scattered throughout the city.

Incentivize affordable ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS (ADUs, popularly known as “granny flats”) and Junior ADUs. Allow more flexibility on ADU size (build a second story above parking on 1st floor): Pasadena has come a long way since the days it made ADUs virtually impossible to build with onerous restrictions. Now that Pasadena recognizes the value of ADUs and sees how they can help families and low-income residents and homeowners, we need to make it possible to build ADUs over garages. It also makes sense to allow homeowners to build two-story ADUs in neighborhoods where two-story homes are permitted. Allowing two-story ADUs will create more needed living space without detracting from the character of neighborhoods and allow for parking.

Remove Parking Minimums Citywide: A single underground parking space can cost up to $50,000. Parking minimums hurt housing affordability, take up space that could be used for more housing units, encourage driving, and disincentivize the use of transit. If our goal is to make our city green, let’s encourage Pasadenans to be less car reliant.  Additionally, let’s incentivize building affordable housing above parking lots.

Encourage “Missing Middle” housing types: (row houses/brownstones, stacked triplexes, etc). Single-family detached homes are pleasant and desirable, but so are other less expensive types of housing. SB 9 allows homeowners to split their lots and build duplexes, thereby increasing the number of single-family homes in single-family neighborhoods. Since there is concern that increased density caused by SB 9 could detract from the appearance of a neighborhood, hold a design competition to solicit architectural templates that are beautiful and can win public approval, and allow small developers to use those templates to build projects with minimal review by the planning department. Let’s embrace SB 9 as we did ADUs and make this policy meet our city’s need for smaller and less expensive single family housing.

Introduce local density bonus program near transit: City of Los Angeles Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) program encourages developers to build more housing units – including affordable units – near major public transportation stops. Additional incentives include the reduction of parking requirements. This makes environmental sense and should be encouraged in Pasadena.

Allow housing in commercially zoned areas: Vacant or underutilized commercially zoned areas are opportunities to build housing in areas where vacant land is hard to come across. Mixed use—having apartments over businesses—works well in Old Pasadena. Why not in other parts of our city?

Streamline the approval of deed-restricted, affordable housing, and permanent supportive housing within 120 days of application. Currently it can take many months or even years to go through the approval process, thereby increasing the cost of housing. Affordable housing should be placed at the head of the line and fast-tracked to make it less expensive.

Form-Based Code (FBC): Traditional zoning determines the height, density and use of buildings in each zone. FBCs give a clear height and bulk of the building but the use is flexible within that footprint and space. FBCs remove barriers and incentivize Missing Middle Housing in appropriate locations in a community. FBCs represent a paradigm shift in the way that we regulate the built environment, using physical form rather than a separation of uses as the organizing principal, to create predictable, built results and a high-quality public realm.  

Funding Solutions

Pasadena’s general funds are typically not used for affordable housing. The main local funding source consists of inclusionary fees paid by developers in lieu of building affordable units on site. These funds are running out. We need a reliable and dedicated source of fundings that can be leveraged by affordable housing developers to obtain state and federal funding for affordable housing. Once the city provides a small amount a ”seed money,” developers can apply to the many funding sources needed to make affordable housing financially feasible.  These are some options worth considering.

Vacancy Tax: A vacancy tax called the Oakland Vacant Property Tax (VPT) was passed by the City of Oakland in 2t018. The VPT Act establishes an annual tax of $3,000 to $6,000 on vacant property. The City of Oakland defined its own definition of “vacancy” which each city will do for themselves. The City of Oakland VPT covers both residential and nonresidential property types. We need to do research to determine if such a tax would be benefificial in Pasadena. (Having a Rent Registry would help provide the needed data.)

Unbundle Parking Cost from Rent Cost: Underground parking can cost up to $50,000 per parking space. Unbundling parking can make housing more affordable because renters can choose to simply rent a housing unit, without paying for the cost of a parking space. Additionally, unbundling the cost of parking from the cost of rent incentivizes people to cut down on their car use so they can avoid paying the parking space fee.

Transfer Tax: “Real estate transfer taxes are assessed on the sale value of a property when it changes ownership…. For example, LA County collects a minimal transfer tax of 0.11% or $1.10 per $1,000 of the sale price. The revenue potential for transfer taxes can be large. The revenues could be spent on a variety of important local efforts including low-income housing construction and rehabilitation, supportive housing and shelters, as well as services for unhoused residents, acquisition of land and at-risk rental properties, rental housing assistance including Housing Choice vouchers, and legal representation for tenants facing eviction or slum condition.” A ballot measure in the City of LA proposes to raise the transfer tax rate on properties greater than $5 million to fund homeless and affordable housing. Research needs to be done to determine if an increased transfer tax would be beneficial in Pasadena and if we can the capacity to conduct a campaign. (It would require a petition to get it on the ballot.)

Affordable Housing Bond: An affordable housing bond issues a certain amount of bonds to fund housing projects and assistance for low-income and middle-income households and for people experiencing homelessness. There has been some talk of using school bond money to fund housing for teachers and staff on underutilized PUSD land. MHCH feels this option is well worth pursuing since it would enable teachers to live closer to where they work and feel more connected to the community where their students live.

Create an Affordable Housing Fund, funded by an Impact Fee: An impact fee is a development fee whose purpose is to offset the impact of new development on the need for affordable housing. The fees are collected and dedicated towards affordable housing. Pasadena currently has an impact fee for parks. Why not for affordable housing?

Preservation Solutions

Long-Term Stewardship of Housing – Community Land Trusts (CLT): A Community Land Trust is a tool for keeping land off the speculative market and preserving affordable housing. The trust owns the land but allows homeowners to own their homes with a limited equity agreement. That is, homeowners purchase homes below market rate and agree to sell them below market rate. This keeps homes permanently affordable. There are hundreds of successful CLTs across the nation. MHCH is in the process of starting the first CLT in the San Gabriel Valley.

Long-Term Preservation of Housing Subsidies – Community Land Trusts: Housing subsidies can keep affordable housing affordable. However, often these subsidies have a date of expiration, meaning at the time of the subsidies expiration the housing can become market rate housing. Long-term preservation of housing subsidies is needed to ensure that affordable housing, such as community land trusts, remain affordable long term

City Purchases and Covenants (Preserves) Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing: This is a way to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing that low-income households already occupy. This is a way for cities to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing and prevent the displacement of low-income households. If the city does not want to own the housing, they can hand it over to a local community land trust for operation and ownership.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

Racism has played in a significant role in how Pasadena has planned our city with Black and other people of color being allowed to live in only certain parts of the city, with limited access to amenities, jobs, credit and more. To help address this, the state has created Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), a state policy that seeks to combat housing discrimination, eliminate racial bias, undo historic patterns of segregation, and lift barriers that restrict access in order to foster inclusive communities and achieve racial equity, fair housing choice, and opportunity for all Californians. Cities are required to have a plan for AFFH. We must take this mandate seriously and rezone our city to allow for affordable housing and homeownership to be built by right, eliminating barriers to make this happen throughout the city.

Displacement and gentrification. 25% of the African American community have left Pasadena in the last decade largely because of soaring housing costs, and the Latino community is beginning to decline for the first time for the same reason. The city needs a realistic plan to create 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next 8 years, as required by the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), to meet the needs of low-income residents, many of whom are people of color.

Housing as a Human Right

“All Pasadena residents have an equal right to live in decent, safe and affordable housing.” This is our city’s housing vision, but too often elected officials fail to make it a priority. In 2020, 527 Pasadena residents are homeless, with over 300 living on the street, 700 PUSD students are homeless, and 19% of PCC students are homeless. These alarming numbers call for urgent action. Here are some policies that address this crisis.

Strategic Use of City-Owned Land: Pasadena has used city-owned property for affordable housing at the Civic Center and at Heritage Square, but it took significant public pressure to convince the City Council to do so. We need a policy that requires city-owned land be exclusively for the creation of affordable and/or supportive housing projects through below-market or no-cost sale or lease to non-profit developers of community land trusts.

Transitional Housing, Temporary Housing, and Shelters for Unhoused Folks: All options should be pursued to shelter unhoused folks in Pasadena, not just permanent supportive housing. State law requires that areas of the city be designated where shelters and transitional housing can be built by right. The city needs to utilize this law to bypass NIMBYs and create much needed transitional housing.

Inclusionary Housing Ordinance: Pasadena’s inclusionary housing ordinance requires developers to reserve 20% of housing units for very low, low, and moderate-income households in new residential developments. This ordinance includes an in-lieu fee that allows developers to bypass inclusionary requirements by paying a fee. Most developers choose to include the affordable units rather than pay a fee. These fees are used to fund affordable housing for low-income residents and permanent supportive housing for those who are homeless. Until alternative funding sources are found, these in lieu fees should be allowed. Some of the regulations for IZ need to be strengthened, however. For example, when a developer chooses to provide the affordable units off site, the funds should go through the City’s Housing Department so these funds can be leveraged.

Rent Control: We urgently need rent control because Pasadena currently has the highest median rent in the Los Angeles area. Rents in Pasadena rose 6% last year and 43% from 2012-2019, while incomes rose only 36%. Many low-income residents who work in our city cannot afford to live here and must live far away and make long, expensive commutes, which is bad for the environment as well as their personal life. 25% of the African American community left Pasadena in the last decade, largely because of soaring housing costs. 62% of Pasadena residents are renters, 49% of renters are rent-burdened, and 26% are severely rent-burdened (paying more than 50% of their income on rent). Few can afford to have their rent increase by 9% a year, as is currently permitted under state law. We need rent control to have a stable and socioeconomically diverse community.

If you are a renter, and have faced eviction, harassment or rents that are too high, share your story along with some of these statistics. Your voice needs to be heard!

Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance We need a Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance because some landlords are taking advantage of their tenants, particularly those who are low-income and undocumented. Examples of landlord harassment include failure to perform requested repairs, entering the unit without proper notice, refusing to acknowledge or accept lawful payments from tenants, intentionally disturbing a tenant’s peace and quiet, violating a tenant’s right to privacy, inquiring about a tenant’s immigration status, or other dishonest or intimidating behavior. These activities should not only not be allowed, but tenants should also be provided with free legal counsel so they can have a chance to win landlord harassment cases when they come to trial. This would deter landlords from abusing their tenants.

Tenant’s Right to Counsel Funding. Low-income tenants are at a disadvantage when landlords threaten them with eviction, refuse to repay their deposit, or harass them. That’s why there needs to be Tenant’s Right to Counsel Funding: Pasadena should seek funding to implement a right to counsel for tenants in eviction proceeding as well as  additional rental assistance for tenants. The ACLU strongly supports giving tenants the right to counsel.

Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. We need a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance because landlords currently can evict tenants for virtually any reason and would be more likely to do so if there is rent control. Just cause eviction policies promote residential stability by limiting the grounds upon which a landlord may evict a tenant. Allowable grounds for eviction include nonpayment of rent, intentional damage to the unit, and other material noncompliance with the terms of the lease before they may evict tenants. Tenants should have a right to stay in their apartment if they don’t cause problems. It’s that simple.  

A rental registry is a good idea because it requires landlords to report to the city about rental units and rent amounts. Why is this important? Rent registries help track building code standards, ensure quality housing for tenants, and enforce rent control laws. Policy makers use the data to determine trends and rental housing supply needs. This policy has worked well in other cities. Just as restaurants need to be inspected to ensure that they meet health and safety requirements, so should apartments. Tenants deserve to have a healthy and safe apartment. That’s what a rent registry can help ensure.

TOPA (Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Agreement. When apartments come up for sale, tenants should have an opportunity to purchase the apartment building.  This is called TOPA (Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Agreement) The first TOPA bill was enacted in Washington, D.C., in 1980 to give tenants at risk of eviction a pathway to ownership and control over their homes. A 2013 report from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute found that TOPA helped preserve nearly 1,400 units of affordable housing in the District between 2003 and 2013, at just a fraction of a cost of building new affordable units. Advocates of current TOPA proposals are calling for expanded funding streams to make the first right of purchase attainable for low-income tenants.

Affordable Housing Update for March 11th: Opportunities to Keep Rent and Home Ownership Affordable!

14 Mar

From March 11th, 2022

Last Saturday, amidst rain and cold weather, local volunteers gathered to collect signatures to put Rent Control on the ballot. We are less than 200 signatures away! If you’d like to add your signature or learn more, click here.

Pasadena is in the final stages of finalizing their housing element, and your public comment is needed! Two city sponsored meetings are being held this month, the first being this Wednesday, March 16th. To learn more or to be coached on public speaking, please contact MHCH Community Organizer Bert Newton at Bert@MakingHousingHappen.org.

Did you know that one of the best options for affordable home ownership is through Community Land Trusts (CLTs)? The very CLT was created in Georgia in the 1960s by the incredible Shirley Sherrod. Today, MHCH’s very own Connie Tamkin is working to create the very first CLT in the San Gabriel Valley. These women deserve celebration!

Click here to read more.

How to write to your elected officials in support of rezoning religious land for affordable housing…

11 Mar
Rezoning Congregational Land for affordable housing is coming up on the Pasadena City Council agenda. Ten churches have expressed interest in having affordable housing built on the underutilized land but can’t do it because of zoning. The Planning Department is making recommendations that would make it unfeasible for these churches to build affordable housing. All we need to do is convince the City Council to increase the number of units permitted per acre from 32 to 26. Please write them or speak out at the City Council meeting on Monday, May 23. You can write to them at correspondence@cityofpasadena.net.
Here’s template with 21 talking points that you can choose from:
 
Dear Mayor and City Council members,
 
Thank you for considering the proposal to rezone congregational land for affordable housing. I am writing in support of this innovative and much needed zone change.
 
[Give your background and a sentence about why you care about housing our low-income and homeless neighbors. Stress your connection to Pasadena, i.e. if you live, work or worship here. If you live here, please mention your district and Council member.]
Thanking public officials is always a good approach. If your Council member has done something you support, thank him or her, or else thank the Council as a whole. For example, Jess Rivas supports rent control. John Kennedy has been a champion of affordable housing. You can also thank the Mayor for appointing a Housing Task Force and expressing concern for affordable housing. The Council unanimously supported affordable housing at Heritage Square South and the Civic Center. You can thank them for supporting these projects. They liked being appreciated and are more likely to listen to you when you are friendly. We want to win their hearts as well as their minds.
Use this talking point:
I urge you to adopt a zoning policy that will work to allow congregations to have affordable housing built on their underutilized land. The staff recommends zone changes only for commercial and public/semi-public zones, which excludes most congregations in our city. Please make sure that you pass an ordinance that works by increasing the number of units per acre from 32 to 36, only four additional units. 
Then pick one of these points and either copy-and-paste or rephrase in your own words:
  1. The need for affordable housing is “desperate,” as Mayor Gordo has pointed out. Soaring housing costs are driving low-income residents, especially people of color, out of our city. Even middle-class people can’t afford Pasadena’s spiraling rents or median home price, which is now over one million dollars. Allowing congregations to address this crisis is in keeping with the city’s mission: “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.” Allowing congregations to have affordable housing built on their underutilized land will help the city meet its state-mandated goal of 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next eight years
  1. I support rezoning congregational land because churches are ideal sites for affordable housing. There are many congregations already involved in helping homeless and low-income individuals with food, clothing, and other services. Some of these congregations have large parking lots that are underutilized during the week. Let’s give congregations a chance to bless our community not only with food, but also with much needed affordable housing so we can continue to see our homeless count drop.
 
  1. I urge you to support rezoning religious property for affordable housing because it will spread affordable housing throughout the city, thereby affirmatively furthering fair housing—a state-mandated goal seeking to undo policies that led to racial segregation and other inequities in our city. Our city has a deplorable history of racist housing policies, so I urge to make sure that churches throughout the city, but especially in the N. Fair Oaks area south of city border are zoned to allow several interested churches to accomplish their dream to provide affordable housing on their property. This will serve to provide much needed housing and revitalize this part of the city.
  1. I support the religious zoning armament for many reasons but one reason is because affordable housing brings millions of dollars of outside investment into our community and it’ also serves to generate additional local investment dollars into our city because of the Pasadena 20/20/20 rule: 20% of those who build the housing are to be local contractors, 20% of workers are local, and 20% of materials must be local. This one policy generated $6,000,000 on the N. Heritage Square project.
  1. I support allowing congregations to have affordable housing built on their property since Pasadena residents will be the main beneficiaries. Pasadena’s local preference policy prioritizes those who live and work in Pasadena. This lower driving time, addresses climate goals and builds a strong community. 
  1. I appreciate the historic character of our city and our commitment to historic preservation. I support this policy since historic churches will not be negatively impacted but given new life that benefits the community. Current laws (i.e. California’s Historic Preservation policy) protect historic churches. They cannot be demolished or affected without Council approval. Historic churches can be adaptively reused to ensure that they are preserved and useful.
  1. I am concerned that if this policy isn’t passed, when churches may close and they may be tempted to sell their property to market rate developers, since they cannot make the numbers work for affordable housing to happen. We have schoolteachers, firemen, teacher aids, small business owners and their employees all in need of homes they can afford. We have exceeded our goals in the city for market rate housing. We don’t need more. We cannot lose the opportunity to have affordable housing built on these sites. Over 4,000 churches in the US closing each year, market rate developers are seeking out church properties in hopes of making a profit. If we give churches a chance to have affordable housing built on their underutilized land, they are less likely to close and sell their property to a market rate developer.
  1. I encourage you to pass an ordinance that will help provide “desperately needed affordable, high quality, housing for all our residents” (as our Mayor described the goal of the Housing Task Force). I am asking Council to support a zoning amendment because the time to address the need for affordable housing is urgent. The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requires that Pasadena plan for 6,000 units of affordable housing to be built in the next 8 years. We have religious organizations throughout the city eager to help meet this need.
  1. Projects built on underutilized congregational land will not impact single family neighborhoods since they will be in areas that are zoned commercial or public/semi-public. A small percent of the 136 religious congregations with land will be able to take advantage of this policy.
10.  I urge you to support this zoning amendment because it will save significant time and  money needed to invest in building high quality affordable housing by providing prior certainty in permeameters of the housing—the height, bulk and density allowed. By  having more predictably for affordable housing developers, it will ensure that much needed affordable housing will be built. Additionally, by it minimizing the money, risk and time for affordable housing developers it also assures that will be built. Churches and developers cannot invest a great amount of time, money to rezone a property, (hundreds of thousands of dollars and years) with no assurance that the time and money spent will result in the right zoning for a project to pencil out.
 
11.  I believe this policy can be a big win for our city. By passing a policy that provides feasible sites that attract top affordable hosing developers because their projects can pencil out on religious property, the city can help congregations to address our city’s critical shortage of affordable housing. Ten churches have expressed interest in having affordable housing built on their underutilized land. This could result in hundreds of units of affordable housing, at no cost to the city.  It would be foolish to miss this golden opportunity.
 
12.  I support a zoning amendment that enables churches to build affordable housing because it 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. But this will not be possible if this amendment is no passed. The cost to and time (years) needed to create a zoning change on a case-by-case basis is an obstacle that most developers don’t have the time and deep pockets to do.  A citywide zoning amendment will significantly lower costs, by over a hundred thousand dollars making the deal attractive to a high-quality affordable housing developers.
 
13.  I urge you to adopt this policy because it has broad public support.   95% of churches surveyed by MHCH support a Congregational Land Zoning amendment. The Clergy Community Coalition, which comprises 76 congregations, supports this zoning amendment, as does the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Pasadena Affordable Housing Coalition. When the Planning Department held a public zoom meeting on rezoning congregational land for affordable housing, only one person was not in support, among the hundred in attendance supported it. Please listen to the voice of your constituents!
 
14.  I support this zoning amendment because it makes good sense to allow community minded congregations that are already willing and mission-driven to become partners with the city to meet a very real need.  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 good design in keeping with the neighborhood character are of upmost importance to congregations. And when the project goes through design review will also assure that the housing is beautiful.
 
15.  I support a zoning amendment that would spread affordable housing development through the city, thereby 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.  We must recognize the power of congregations as allies with their excess land, missional orientation, and base of support in the community.  A zoning amendment would help the city to go a long way toward meeting an urgent need.

 
16.

I believe that this amendment is needed because churches are struggling and are re-imagining how they can use their assets to benefit the community and their mission. Church attendance is declining and many churches are closing as a result, 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, a zoning amendment enabling churches desiring to have affordable housing on their property would provide a huge leap forward in addressing the housing crisis.

 
17.  I support this policy change because many churches have successfully partnered 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, so be better steward of their land and space, they are reaching out to partner. 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. Adopting an zoning amendment that would enable churches to provide affordable housing on their property would make the process more straightforward, facilitate high quality partnerships with affordable housing developers to create much-needed affordable housing.
 
18.  I support rezoning religious land for affordable housing because it is one way that the city can make right the 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. Today with the gentrification, causing significant displacement of these who were never given the opportunity to own, churches are employing out and several in Pasadena 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 curb further displacement and correct past sins.  Some African American churches are eager to provide affordable housing on their underutilized land, please allow them to do so.
 
19.  I urge you to approve a viable zoning amendment because 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 jobs and 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.
 
  1. I urge the Council to recommend predetermined standards for height and density that would allow for tax credits, the main funding source for affordable housing. This will prevent churches and developers from a long, uncertain and costly process and may not result in a zone change to make the project feasible. Few developers will take this risk, abut it took them half a million dollars and three years for a zone change before they could begin the pre-development process. We need the housing now without such delays.  This proposal will eliminate needless delays and ensure that projects are actually built.
 
  1. I believe that rezoning congregational land for affordable housing is a policy whose time has come. Ten other cities in Southern California are considering rezoning religious property for affordable housing, including Sierra Madre, which was the first to approve such a policy. The city of Seattle has rezoned religious property throughout the city.  They see this rezoning as a racial equity issue, as they make clear in their website: “Allowing additional density for long-term, income-restricted affordable housing on religious property helps us address Seattle’s affordability crisis and supports the many faith-based organizations eager to use their land to create homes for their low-income neighbors. When paired with the support of public funds and tools like community preference, these land use policies help address historic and ongoing inequities in housing access by supporting community-driven and community-owned development.” We feel that this zoning amendment will help address historic inequities in Pasadena as well as address gentrification and displacement of low-income residents, many of whom are people of color.

Affordable Housing Update for March 4th: Information for Local Advocacy and Celebrating Women’s History Month

7 Mar

From March 4th, 2022

Last Wednesday’s Housing Justice Forum was a huge success that offered informative presentations and interesting discussions. The virtual meeting was recorded — click here to watch in full! There are still opportunities to get involved locally in shaping Housing Policy in Pasadena for the next eight years. Contact Bert@MakingHousingHappen.org for more details. Did you know that one of the main funding sources for Affordable Housing is through a policy created by a woman of faith? Mary Nelson was part of a Presidential Task Force that created the pathway for tax credits to be used to offset the cost of affordable housing, creating the environment to have tens of thousands of units of affordable hosing to be built.

Click here to read more!

Affordable Housing Policies that Address Our City’s Housing Crisis

4 Mar

Making Housing and Community has partnered with the Pasadena Affordable Housing Coalition, which now consists of 15 organizations committed to passing housing policies that would meet our city’s need for nearly 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next 8 years (according to the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment). Here are some of the policy solutions we have recommended that the city adopt. You can read the Coalition’s critique of the current draft of the Housing Element in this op ed Pasadena Now. 

 Tenant Protection Solutions 

  1. Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance: This ordinance defines and codifies illegal harassment activities and toughens civil and criminal penalties for landlords who are abusing their tenants. See example from the City of Los Angeles Source 1 from Abundant Housing LA, Source 2 from City of Los Angeles CityClerk Connect.
  2. Just Cause Eviction Ordinance: “Just cause eviction policies promote residential stability by limiting the grounds upon which a landlord may evict a tenant. Allowable grounds for eviction include nonpayment of rent, intentional damage to the unit, and other material noncompliance with the terms of the lease before they may evict tenants.” Source 1 from Local Housing Solutions, Source 2 from Princeton University evaluated the effect of just cause eviction ordinances across the United States .
  3. A Rental Registry: A rental registry allows a city to require landlords to report to the city about rental units and rent amounts. Many cities have versions of rental registries, however, most of them only apply to rent-stabilized apartments not market rate apartments. One example is the City of San Jose. The City of El Cerrito has a rent registry that applies to all owners of residential rental property .
  4. Fund a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Program. These programs enable tenants to purchase a property before it’s put on the market. ShelterForce Report on Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Acts.
  5. Tenant’s Right to Counsel Funding: Cities provide funding to implement a right to counsel for tenants in eviction proceedings, as well as to implement a fully effective moratorium on evictions and additional rental assistance for tenants. ACLU article on tenant’s right to council.
  6. Rent Control: The City of Santa Monica adopted rent control in 1979. The law was intended to alleviate the hardships of the housing shortage and ensure that landowners make a fair return on their investment. When adopting a rent Santa Monica Rent Control Info. (City, not state rent control)

Zoning Solutions 

  1. Congregational Land Overlay Zone: A congregational land overlay zone is a zoning tool which allows religious congregations to build affordable housing at sufficient densities on their land. An overlay zone is crafted to be unique to each jurisdiction and sensitive to site/neighborhood context. See this factsheet for more information on the congregational land overlay zone as it relates in a neighboring SGV city, Pasadena.
  2. Incentivize affordable ADUs and JADUs. Allow more flexibility on ADU size (build a second story above parking on 1st floor): Make it less costly and less time intensive to develop ADUs. City of Los Angeles ADU Accelerator Program.
  3. Remove Parking Minimums Citywide: Parking minimums hurt housing affordability, take up space that could be used for more housing units, encourage driving, and disincentivize the use of transit. Report on effect of the City of Buffalo’s cutting of parking minimums. Other cities that have removed parking minimums are San Francisco, Berkeley, and more.
  4. Encourage “Missing Middle” housing types: (row houses/brownstones, stacked triplexes, etc). Allow by-right in areas currently zoned for SFH that are within ¼ or ½ mile of commercial districts/Special Plan Areas. Hold a design competition to solicit architectural templates that are beautiful and can win public approval, and allow small developers to use those templates to build projects with minimal review by the planning department. Missing Middle Housing Source. Congress for New Urbanism Source.
  5. Housing Overlay Zone, such as an Affordable Housing Overlay Zone: A housing overlay zone provides a package of incentives to developers who include in their projects homes that people can afford. They are called “overlay” zones because they layer on top of established base zoning regulations, leaving in place opportunities for property owners to develop within these existing rules. Factsheet on Housing Overlay Zones. Berkeley Affordable Housing Overlay Zone.
  6. Introduce local density bonus program near transit: City of Los Angeles TOC program encourages developers to build more housing units – including affordable units – near major public transportation stops. Additional incentives include the reduction of parking requirements. City of Los Angeles TOC Program.
  7. Allow housing in commercially zoned areas: Vacant or underutilized commercially zoned areas are opportunities to build housing in Southern California where vacant land is hard to come across. Berkeley Terner Center Report on Residential Redevelopment of Commercially Zoned Land in California.
  8. Streamline the approval of deed-restricted, affordable housing, and permanent supportive housing within 30 days of application. Habitat of Humanity Report on Streamlining Approvals for Affordable Housing in California.
  9. Form-Based Code: Pursue form-based code which effectively regulates missing middle housing. Form-Based Codes (FBCs) remove barriers and incentivize Missing Middle Housing in appropriate locations in a community. FBCs represent a paradigm shift in the way that we regulate the built environment, using physical form rather than a separation of uses as the organizing principal, to create predictable, built results and a high-quality public realm. Missing Middle Housing on Form-Based Code.

Funding Solutions 

  1. Vacancy Tax: A vacancy tax called the Oakland Vacant Property Tax (VPT) was passed by the City of Oakland in 2t018. The VPT Act establishes an annual tax of $3,000 to $6,000 on vacant property. The City of Oakland defined its own definition of “vacancy” which each city will do for themselves. The City of Oakland VPT covers both residential and nonresidential property types. City of Oakland Vacant Property Tax. Report to City of Los Angeles Council about vacancy tax applicability to the city.
  2. Unbundle Parking Cost from Rent Cost: Unbundling parking can make housing more affordable because renters can choose to simply rent a housing unit, without paying for the cost of a parking space. Additionally, unbundling the cost of parking from the cost of rent incentivizes people to cut down on their car use so they can avoid paying the parking space fee. City of Santa Monica Unbundling Parking in municipal code. Report from Mike Manville (UCLA) about the benefits of unbundling the cost of parking from rent costs. Article from Mobility Lab about transportation benefits of unbundling parking.
  3. Transfer Tax: “Real estate transfer taxes are assessed on the sale value of a property when it changes ownership. These taxes are sometimes designed as a fee rather than a tax. For example, LA County collects a minimal transfer tax of 0.11% or $1.10 per $1,000 of the sale price. The revenue potential for transfer taxes can be large. The revenues could be spent on a variety of important local efforts including low-income housing construction and rehabilitation, supportive housing and shelters, as well as services for unhoused residents, acquisition of land and at-risk rental properties, rental housing assistance including Housing Choice vouchers, and legal representation for tenants facing eviction or slum conditions.” Report from Shane Phillips (UCLA) on Real Estate Transfer Tax Reform.
  4. Affordable Housing Bond: An affordable housing bond will issue a certain amount of bonds to fund housing projects and assistance for low-income and middle-income households and for people experiencing homelessness. City of Emeryville Affordable Housing Bond, passed.
  5. Create an Affordable Housing Fund, funded by an Impact Fee: An impact fee is a development fee whose purpose is to offset the impact of new development on the need for affordable housing. The fees are collected and dedicated towards affordable housing. Berkeley Terner Center Report on Residential Impact Fees. Grand Nexus Study on Impact Fees in San Mateo County.
  6. City of Pasadena, how the fund their housing department.

Preservation Solutions 

  1. Long-Term Preservation of Housing Subsidies – Community Land Trusts: Housing subsidies can keep affordable housing affordable. However, often these subsidies have a date of expiration, meaning at the time of the subsidies expiration the housing can become market rate housing. Long-term preservation of housing subsidies is needed to ensure that affordable housing, such as community land trusts remain affordable long term. Source 1 from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Source 2, second report from Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
  2. Long-Term Stewardship of Housing – Community Land Trusts: Community stewardship is a necessary part of the long-term response to our housing crisis. It focuses on not only housing but the ground underneath. Source 1 from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Source 2, second report from Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
  3. City Purchases and Covenants (Preserves) Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing: This is a way to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing that low-income households already occupy. This is a fairly affordable way for cities to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing and prevent the displacement of low-income households. If the city does not want to own the housing, they can hand it over to a local community land trust for operation and ownership. Shelter force article on Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing.
  4. Code Enforcement

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

Housing as a Human Right (Homelessness).

Affordable Housing Update for February 25th: Local Advocacy Opportunities Abound!

27 Feb

From February 25th, 2022

This Wednesday’s Housing Justice Forum will focus on ways Pasadena can plan for just and fair housing for all. One of the ways MHCH is doing this already is by proudly co-sponsoring the campaign for rent control and just cause eviction protections in Pasadena. State Senator Anthony Portantino has introduced a bill to address the housing shortage in Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena.

Click here to read more and to register for the upcoming Housing Justice Forum on this Wednesday, March 2nd.

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