Historical Factors Accounting for Differences in Black and White Wealth and Home Ownership

4 Jun

The following article is by Lawrence Morse, a professor in the Department of Economics NC A&T State University (Retired May 2010).

This paper offers chronologies of institutional factors that have advantaged whites in the accumulation of wealth and in home ownership.

  1. Institutional factors that have advantaged whites in accumulating wealth

According to data collected by the Federal Reserve for its 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances in 2007 median household income was $30,851 for blacks and $51,418 for whites or white household income was 1.67 times that of black households. Also in 2007 median net worth was $17,100 for black households and $163,001 for white households.

{Net worth is the value of all assets minus all debts and hence a truer measure of what is “owned.”.} White household median net worth in 2007 was 9.5 times black household median net worth. The immense difference between the ratios of 9.5 for net worth and 1.67 for income in 2007 is the consequence of years of public policies and practices that have systematically advantaged whites in the accumulation of wealth.

The wealth disparity between black and white households has worsened sharply in recent years. The Pew Research Center 2011 report found that in 2009 median net worth was $5,677 for black households and $113,149 for white households and hence white household median net worth in 2009 was 19.9 times black household median net worth. The Bureau of Census reports 2009 median household income was $32,584 for blacks and $51,861 for whites or white household income was 1.59 times that of black households. (Kochhar, Fry and Taylor 2011) The enormous rise in the white-to-black household median net worth to 19.9 in 2009 as compared to a white-to-black ratio of 1.59 for median household income is explained primarily in the crash of housing values with black households experiencing a with much greater relative loses in home equity than was true for white households. An analysis of the causes of the 19.9 ratio is presented at the end of the section on institutional factors that advantaged whites in the accumulation of housing equity.  What follows now is a list of some of the federal policies and practices that systematically advantaged whites in their overall accumulation of wealth.

These policies and practices include:

The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War resulted in a massive transfer of land from Mexicans to white people throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, parts of Colorado, and small sections of what are now Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming. (Lui et al. 2006)                                        

In 1849 nearly 100,000 white people were drawn to the California gold rush. The Free Soil provisions of the California state constitution allowed whites to claim and own land while banning slaves and free black people from doing so.

The 1862 Homestead Act that granted citizens 160 acres of land for free if they would farm it for five years. Blacks and Native Americans were not given citizenship status and hence were not allowed to participate. (Lui 2004) An estimated 46 million Americans living today are descendants of Homestead Act beneficiaries. (Lui et al. 2006)

There was a huge wave of European immigration from 1850 to 1920 and while ethnic and religious prejudices were often virulent, the prejudice against poor immigrants was different from the prejudice black people experienced in two important ways. One the prejudices against immigrants not encoded into law unlike the obstacles for people of color. Two new immigrants could encourage their children to become “American” by becoming “white.” While these were wrenching choices, unlike people of color at least most of the Irish, eastern and southern European immigrants had that choice. Despite the discrimination unskilled European immigrants faced during this period they regularly displaced African Americans as workers on canals, railroads, construction and docks.

The 1933 Agriculture Adjustment Administration policy that took Southern “traditions” into account by paying 4½¢ per pound of cotton not grown to the landlord who was to pay the tenant ½¢. (Dubofsky & Burwood 1990)

The 1935 Social Security Act did not extend coverage to farm and domestic workers. Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be employed as farm or domestic workers. (According to the 1930 census 68.75% of gainfully employed blacks worked in agriculture or domestic services.) Twenty-two percent of white workers in covered occupations did not earn enough to qualify for benefits. The comparable figure for black workers was 42 percent. Consequently a much higher percentage of black workers than of white workers were not covered by Social Security at its outset. (Lui et al 2006) The advent of Social Security changed families’ attitudes toward not only how much to save, but what savings could be used for, including being able to afford higher education for children or making a down payment on a home, a home that might be the equity needed to obtain a business loan. {Domestic workers were included for Social Security coverage in 1950 and agricultural workers in 19954.}

The originally proposed 1935 National Labor Relations Act would have reserved the closed shop for unions that did not discriminate. The final legislation did not include the restriction on non-discriminating unions to use closed shops nor a clause barring racial discrimination by unions. The southern Democrats, who had voted to keep agricultural and domestic workers out of Social Security also excluded them from the NLRA. Furthermore, with the support of the AFL that was more interested in enhancing union power that reducing the discriminatory power of unions, were responsible for the changes in the final NLRA legislation. (Roediger 2005) Failing to disallow unions to engage in racial discrimination enhanced whites’ access to jobs and crafts that offered premium wages.

The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act did not apply to domestic and agricultural workers and consequently a much higher percentage of white workers enjoyed minimum wage protection and being paid time-and-a-half for certain overtime work. (Katznelson 2005) The segregation of the armed services during World War II did not limit white soldiers’ access to training in employable skills.

The 1944 GI Bill, formally known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, did not mention race, but like other federal programs was locally administered and primarily assisted white veterans. The local administration resulted in white vets not only having greater access to vocational training but being more likely to receive training for skilled and semi-skilled vocations while black vets were usually channeled into training for unskilled vocations. The US Employment Service, set up by the GI Bill, tended to steer white vets into jobs commensurate with their skills while typically steering black vets into jobs below their skills. While over two million vets went to college on the GI Bill, they were primarily white as black vets were denied admission to many white campuses.

{While enrollment at black colleges went from 29 thousand in 1940 to 73 thousand in 1947, nonetheless between 15 and 20 thousand black veteran applicants could not be admitted for lack of space.} Furthermore, white vets were approved for home and business loans at much higher rates than were black vets. (See the discussion of home ownership below for details.)

A 1997 court approved consent decree found the US Department of Agriculture advantaged white farmers in the allocation of price support loans, disaster payments, “farm ownership” loans and operating loans between 1983 and 1997 thereby settling the class action law suit Pigford v. Glickman. {Timothy Pigford is a black farmer who was initially joined by some 400 black farmers in the class action lawsuit. Dan Glickman was the then Secretary of Agriculture.} The court approved consent decree awarded an estimated 75 thousand black farmers damages of $1.5 billion.

  1. Institutional factors that have advantaged whites in home ownership

Because homeownership is the prime vehicle for wealth accumulation, factors that disadvantaged blacks in the accumulation of home equity merit their own chronology. A smaller percentage of blacks own their own homes and have substantially less wealth or net worth than do whites. Nonetheless home equity is more important to black households that it is to white households. Black households’ equity in their homes is 62.5% of their assets, while home equity is 43.3% of white households’ assets (Oliver & Shapiro, 1995). Family wealth is an important determinant in the across-generations amassing of wealth, starting a business and so forth. Home ownership is importantly related to the creation of business wealth, for homes often serve as collateral when entrepreneurs start a business. Wealth also has telling effects on educational outcomes. Conley (1999) found that household wealth has a larger impact on various measures of children’s educational outcomes.

Also Shapiro (2004) found that modest financial assistance from parents allowed white families to make down payments on homes. Such financial support advantaged white

households in two ways: in being able to buy homes in neighborhoods with “better” public schools; and being able to make larger down payments that kept “points” from being added to the mortgage rate. The latter saved such white families thousands of dollars over the lives of their mortgages.

Percent of families owning their primary residence:

White Nonwhite White to Non-Hispanic or Hispanic Black ratio

1995            70.6%44.3%1.59
1998            71.846.81.53
2001            74.347.31.57
2007            75.651.91.46
2009* 74461.61

Source: Federal Reserve, Survey of Consumer Finances (various); the 2009 rates Kochhar, Fry and Taylor 2011.

The 1933 Home Owners Loan Corporation, created to help home owners and stabilize banks, gave none of its approximately one million loans to black home owners allowing a higher proportion of black home owners to lose their homes during the remainder of the Depression. (Liu et al. 2006) The HOLC created detailed neighborhood maps that, among other things, took into account the neighborhood’s racial composition as well as its likelihood of racial infiltration.

The Federal Housing Administration, established in 1934, was not explicitly a white program, but realtors and hostile white neighbors kept families of color out of white neighborhoods and the FHA condoned redlining practices initiated by the HOLC, which precluded loans in predominantly black neighborhoods.

The HOLC and subsequently the FHA created strong preferential options for whites as planners, builders and lenders were encouraged to promote racially and class homogeneous neighborhoods. (Roediger 2005) Up though the 1940’s FHA manuals and practices channeled funds to white neighborhoods and collaborated with blockbusters.

The policies disproportionately concentrated blacks into substandard houses. In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled against restrictive covenants and yet the FHA continued to push for them as conditions for loans. President Kennedy’s 1960 Order 11063 mandated federal agencies to oppose discrimination in federally-supported housing. The FHA did not communicate the Order to local offices. Indeed of the approximately $120 billion in new housing financed by the VA and FHA by 1962, 98 percent of it went to white home owners. These white recipients are the parents of the baby boomers, and their homes are a significant portion of the $10 trillion in inheritances now being passed down to the baby-boom generation. (Lui et al. 2006) The 1968 Fair Housing Act authorized HUD to investigate complaints yet HUD had no enforcement power and could only refer cases to the attorney general. (Lipsitz 1998)

The 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibited discrimination in real estate lending and required banks to record the racial identity of applicants rejected and accepted for home loans. While the 1974 Act had the appearance of ending racial discrimination in real estate lending, it is worth noting that the banks refused to collect the data, by race, on rejected and accepted applicants. In 1976 ten civil rights groups filed a suit to have the court order the FDIC and the Home Loan Bank Board to obey the 1974 law requiring the banks to keep and report the race data. In 1981 the FDIC ceased keeping race records when the court order ran out. President Reagan used the Paperwork Reduction Act to stop HUD from gathering data on the racial identities of participants in housing programs. (Lipsitz 1998)

Black families were targeted for subprime or predatory mortgage loans. Black households were much more likely than similarly qualified white households to be steered to a subprime loan. As a result black households were over three times more likely than white households to have a subprime mortgage. Subprime mortgages involved higher rates of interest and typically higher fees and, in turn, cost the average borrower tens of thousands of dollars more and were more likely to result in foreclosure. In December 2011the US Department of Justice, announced a $335 million settlement with Bank of America/ Countrywide for its predatory practices that targeted black and Latino households. The settlement noted that between 2004 and 2008 some 200,000 African American and Latino borrowers were charged more for their mortgages than were similarly qualified white borrowers. The Center for Responsible Lending found that over a thirty-year mortgage a typical subprime borrower would pay over $35,000 for their loan than if it had been a retail loan and being over three times more likely than whites to be in foreclosure that in turn meant the loss of billions of dollars of wealth. (Ernst, Bocian, and Li 2008.)

Between 2005 and 2009 black household median net worth fell 53% from $12,124 to $5,677 while white household median net worth fell 16% from $134,992 in 2005 to $113,149. (Kochhar, Fry and Taylor 2011). The devastatingly large 53% fall in black household median net worth compared to the 16% decline for white households is largely accounted for by the fact that black households who own homes have a higher proportion of their wealth in their homes than is true of their white counterparts. This means that black household wealth is relatively more sensitive to the consequences of being disproportionately subjected to subprime or predatory home loans with their attendant higher mortgage costs and likelihood of being foreclosed than is true of their white counterparts.

Furthermore between 2005 and 2009 black household net home equity—that is, value of the home minus the mortgage balance due—fell by 23% while the comparable figure for white households was 18%. (Kochhar, Fry and Taylor 2011) Not only did black households typically experience greater relative loss in housing value during the housing crisis, but in the period preceding the housing crisis, white owned homes appreciated at a median annual rate of 8.1% (2001-2004) and 5.1% (04-07) while black owned homes appreciated by 6.4% (2001-2004) and 4.6% (2004-2007). These percentages correspond to median annual increases of $85,000 for white-owned homes as compared to $45,000 for black-owned homes. (Data from 2001, 2004 and 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances.)

These data reveal is that the good years for homeownership and the poor years are impacted by the long history of policies and practices that have resulted in black households being limited, no longer legally, but in practice, in their access to home ownership in appreciating areas and confined to home ownership areas with diminished appreciation and greater depreciation because demand for their homes is restricted due to black households disparate access to more affordable mortgages and to finding that potential home buyers where they own their homes are typically narrowed to buyers of color rather than the whole range of potential home buyers.


  • Conley, Dalton. 1999. Being Black. Living in the Red: Race. Wealth. and Social Policy in America. University of California Press. Berkeley. CA.
    • Dubofsky, Melvin and Stephen Burwood, editors. 1990. Women and Minorities during the Great Depression. Garland Publishing, New York.
    • Katznelson, Ira. 2005. When Affirmative Action Was White. W.W.Norton. New York.
    • Lipsitz, George, 1998. The Positive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics. Temple University Press, Philadelphia.
    • Lui, Meizhu. 2004. “Doubly Divided: The Racial Wealth Gap,” in The Wealth Inequality Reader. Edited by Dollars & Sense and United for a Fair Economy. Dollars & Sense, Economic Affairs Bureau, Boston: 42-49.
    • Lui, Meizhu, Barbara Robles, Betsy Leondar-Wright, Rose Brewer, and Rebecca Adamson. 2006 The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide. The New Press. New York.
    • Oliver, Melvin and Thomas Shapiro. 1995. Black Wealth/White Wealth. Routledge. New York.
    • Roediger, David. 2005. Working Toward Whiteness. Basic Books. New York.
    • Shapiro, Thomas. 2004. The Hidden Cost Being African-American. Oxford University Press, New York.

Please support the Overlay Zone for Congregational Land: Planning Commission Agenda item: 6. B.

26 May

May 27th, 2020

Dear Planning Commissioners,

             We are asking that the City consider adding an optional overlay zone to Pasadena’s city code that would allow congregational land to be used for the development of affordable housing. Essentially, we are asking that if 50% of the units are affordable, with an average affordability (for affordable units) at 50% of area median income, then church properties in commercial or public/semi-public zones would have residential permitted, and those in existing residential zones would be given the opportunity to have increased density.

We support the congregational Land Committee of MHCH. They have thoroughly researched what an appropriate density would be for Pasadena. Please consider the following: 

Base Density (du/ac) or Adjacent Density for PS ZonesAllowable Density (du/ac)
Less than or equal to 2032
32 (or any commercial zone with no residential permitted)64

We were in a severe housing crisis before COVID, and with this pandemic a 45% increase in homelessness is expected (approximately 250,000 new homeless people in the US). Many churches are willing to address this crisis by having affordable housing built on their property. Finding sites to build affordable housing can be one of the most challenging parts affordable housing development. This would not only provide sites, but sites with landowners already 100% in support of the housing with connection to their communities, minimizing concerns from neighbors. Additionally, with land that is already paid for, affordable housing developers would not be paying for land and carrying costs during the 2-3-year pre-development phase. This fact, and the zoning certainty, will help attract top-quality housing developers who will produce high-quality and sensitive developments. Housing developments will also be able to be constructed with less subsidy from the City.

             If that is not enough, another good reason to support an overlay zone, it will enable the city to go a long way in reaching their RHNA goals with the potential of thousands of additional affordable housing units. The Congregational Land Committee already has one church with an RFP of 48 units and another with a potential of 100 units. Yet, they need this overlay zone change so that they can move forward on their mission to bless the community with housing they can afford.



Please send to this letter by 9am May 27th, following the instruction on this link: https://www.cityofpasadena.net/commissions/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2020-05-27-Planning-Commission-Agenda-.pdf?v=1590532654253

MHCH Subcommittee Update 5/26/2020

26 May

ADU Subcommittee

Subcommittee Leader:  Anne Marie Molina

Email: annemarie@makinghousinghappen.com

  • On May 21st the ADU subcommittee met with its new members to review goals and to check the status of current research reports
  • We have tentatively scheduled the next meeting for June the 11th, 2020 at 3:30 with a possible guest speaker. Isaac is a young developer who works for Homestead and is interested in ADU construction. He and his brother were influenced by their father, a gerontologist, and the idea of aging in place molded their company. 

See here for more information: https://www.homestead.is/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=60655486  

  • On Wednesday, May 27th the Planning Commission will provide an update on ADU Regulations and a recap of the actions completed by the Planning Commission and City Council related to ADU’s.

 Case Manager: Arlene Granadosin-Jones 

Agenda Link:


Anne Marie will request the planning commission consider community meetings with an educational component where homeowners can speak to representatives regarding unpermitted ADUs and concerns regarding the process.

Safe Parking Subcommittee

Subcommittee Leader: Tom Petersmeyer

Email: newtqp000@gmail.com

  • The Safe Parking committee meets every other week – our last meeting was on May 25th. Safe Parking is a night-time program for people experiencing homelessness and sleeping in their vehicles. The program provides a safe place to park vehicles, and participants are given support as they work towards being rehoused, and reemployed.
  • Our committee has two churches interested in the safe parking program, and we’re hoping to spread throughout the San Gabriel Valley. We also have one person interested in providing $5,000 towards the program.
  • Our committee is developing a presentation we can use to introduce safe parking to churches. We are currently researching the best way to provide security, funding, and grants.
  • The Pasadena Planning Commission (PPC) will meet this Wednesday, which is our opportunity to request a change to the ordinance prohibiting people from sleeping overnight in their vehicles. We will email letters to the PPC.

Congregational Land Subcommittee

Subcommittee Leader: Phil Burns

Email: phil@arroyogroup.com

  • The Congregational Land Committee has been extremely busy. We meet every other Friday and have done a number of presentations with local pastors to educate them about our overlay zone proposal, which would enable churches to have affordable housing on their property. Phil Burns our chair, done excellent research on this.
  • We now have one church ready with 48 units and an RFP to be broadcast to potential affordable housing development partners. We have a second church close with a potential of up to 100 units. Thanks to our partnership with LA Voice we now have 26 churches throughout LA county interested and seven in Pasadena. We are hopeful that a zone change happens soon to allow these churches to accomplish their mission.
  • We have received a $20,000 grant and are researching how to put that into a revolving loan fund so that we can continue to serve churches.

Homeless Housing Subcommittee

Subcommittee Leader: Anthony Manousos

Email: interfaithquaker@aol.com

  • The Homeless Housing committees’ most exciting news this month came when the City Council finally approved Heritage Square South for 69 units permanent supportive housing–a campaign that began two and a half years ago and was the origin of our committee.
  • We continue to partner with Everyone In to promote Project Roomkey in other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, including Rosemead. This was another win since after considerable public pressure, the Rosemead City Council decided not to oppose Project Roomkey.
  • Thanks to Sonja Berndt, a retired attorney, we have also begun focusing on state affordable and homeless housing policy. The Homeless Housing Committee wrote letters of support to a batch of new bills coming down in Sacramento.
  • Our committee also made a decision to rally support for the church overlay policy of the Congregational Land Committee:

See here for more information on the overlay zone in Pasadena:


Church Liaison Network

Church Liaison Coordinator: Bert Newton

Email: bert@makinghousinghappen.com

  • The Church Liaison Network’s goal is to have 20 liaisons in 20 faith congregations in Pasadena by mid-August. A liaison represents their congregation at monthly meetings and organizes their congregation to advocate for affordable housing.
  • This past month, we added two liaisons and one church to the program and lost one liaison.
  • We currently have 20 people who have identified themselves as liaisons or assistant liaisons, representing 17 specific churches, and one group of churches. Not all the liaisons have been recognized yet by their congregations.
  • Our network has a couple of people who don’t identify as liaisons but are helping us reach out to another group of churches.
  • We are now running monthly trainings for liaisons. Our past topics included the housing element, overlay zone, how to do one on ones, and how to tell your story. To become a liaison for your faith community, contact Bert Newton.

North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative

  • The N Fair Oaks Empowerment initiative, started 10 years ago by asking businesses north of Washington and below Woodbury what they liked about their community and what they want to see changed. That lead to 150 surveys, an employment street fair and many changes–including the installation of a $286,000 traffic signal to help slow traffic.
  • Our team includes: pastors and members from Bethel, New Life Holiness, New Life, New Guiding Light Missionary Baptist churches and Integrated Community Options.
  • We are committed to “Beautify and Not Gentrify” by providing affordable housing, slowing traffic and an employment center. Over 90% of the 82 COVID deaths in Pasadena have been in our neighborhood.  To express our love and grief we have donated 366 fabric masks to residential care facilities.  These were provided by Patricia Switzer of Poway, Rose City Church, Lincoln Avenue Community Church, Connie Milsap and others. We thank you for caring about our community!

The Congregational Land Committee of the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing group is requesting your support.

26 May

One of the biggest obstacles to building affordable housing is a lack of sites. A significant number of churches in Pasadena desire to have affordable housing on their excess land. In fact, one church is ready to pitch a proposal for 48 units on their excess land to an affordable housing development partner and another is looking at around 100 units. Yet, most church land is not properly zoned to allow this use. To make it possible for any church in Pasadena that feels led to provide affordable housing on their property we are asking the city to make what is called an “overlay” zone.  This would apply to any church when 50% of the units to be build would be affordable. The overlay zone would allow:

  1. A density increase (i.e. a property zoned at 16 units per acre would increase to 32 units per acre).
  2. Church property that is zoned “commercial” to also become residential
  3. Church property that is zoned “public” to also become residential.

The following talking points show why this overlay zone is essential. Our request to the City for this overlay zone will not happen without the backing of Pasadena churches by demonstrating their support for such a zoning change.

Talking point #1  The use of excess church land for affordable housing meets a huge need. Los Angeles County is in a severe affordable housing and homelessness crisis, with nearly 60,000 homeless persons and over 500,000 affordable housing units needed to meet demand. Half a million people in LA County spend 90% of their income on rent. There has been a 65% increase in seniors becoming homeless in the past 3 years. There is also a severe lack of available, reasonably priced and permissively zoned sites to build affordable housing in Pasadena as well as in most of Los Angeles County.  The MHCH Congregational Land Committee addresses this problem by supporting religious organizations interested in leveraging their land for affordable housing development. Yet, none of the many churches we have worked with have the proper zoning needed to build affordable housing. It can cost thousands of dollars for one church to make the needed zoning changes. We are asking for an overlay zone allows for this “by right”, meaning that it is permitted without this onerous process and expense.  “By right” will enable affordable housing developers to shorten the time to develop the housing and remove much of the risk involved for an affordable housing developer.

Talking point #2: Churches have a successful track record of partnering with affordable housing developers to provide affordable dwellings on their excess land. Some churches have taken advantage of large parking lots that go empty during the week, buildings constructed for congregations much larger than is needed today, or other property that can be re-purposed.  In building affordable housing, there can be economic benefit for the church as well as to those needing to be housed. In some cases, affordable housing developers have provided additional parking for the church. For example, Garden Grove United Methodist Church entered into a long-term ground lease with Jamboree Housing Corporation, using 2.2 acres of the church’s former parking lots and vacant land to develop 47 units of family housing, 16 units of senior housing, a community center, the Orange County Head Start Learning Center and offices for multiple local non-profits. While there are many successful examples of churches utilizing their excess land for affordable housing, most churches are wary of trying because they lack expertise or knowledge. Our team has the experience and know how to walk a church through an idea, discernment, feasibility and to a concept and then a proposal that would be pitched to potential affordable housing development partners.  To shore up this process to make it attractive to a development partner, an over-lay zone would expedite the process and save thousands of by making the zoning “by right”, meaning that it is permitted without the onerous process and expense of a zone change.

Talking point #3: Our approach empowers churches to be successful. Helping the church to discern its vision and find a suitable and trustworthy developer is highly complex and technical work, for which most congregations lack expertise. Efforts to incentivize congregational land have often failed because they either promote one-size-fits-all solutions or imagine that congregations themselves can become developers. Our team of professional city planners, architects and affordable housing project managers listens to congregations individually and applies our extensive knowledge of affordable housing, zoning and community engagement to craft site plans that mix the congregation’s needs with new affordable housing buildings, with corresponding funding strategies. We facilitate dialogues with religious leaders, congregations, City staff and elected officials and communities and modify the plans until a consensus solution is identified, then help congregations choose an experienced developer to build the project. Because of our solid relationship and the respect, we have earned with the city elected officials and staff, we believe that with the support of Pasadena churches an overlay zone can be passed. This would put Pasadena churches on the map for progressive policy that other cities can emulate.

​Talking point #4: The opportunity for churches to create affordable housing on their excess land is huge. In Pasadena, for example, we estimate that there is capacity to build 2,000-5,000 units of affordable housing on excess congregational land. The Mayor of Pasadena and the County of Los Angeles support our efforts, recognizing the power of congregations as allies with their excess land, missional orientation and base of support in the community. Church land can be zoned in any number of ways: public, commercial, residential and then if residential, it may have 16 units per acre which is too limiting to create a feasible project.  Making it possible churches to have affordable housing built on their excess land, we are asking that this over-lay zone would go into effect when 50% of the units to be build would be affordable. The overlay zone would allow:

  1. A density increase (i.e. a property zoned at 16 units per acre would increase to 32 units per acre).
  2. Church property that is zoned “commercial” to also become residential
  3. Church property that is zoned “public” to also become residential.

Talking point #5: The advantages. Using church land is a huge opportunity for developers to have feasible and successful projects. 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. The adverse effects of NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) are minimized. Yet, if churches wish to supply 50% or more of their units as affordable, the onerous cost and time needed to create a zoning change can significantly lowered if there is an overlay zone in place that would allow for: 

  1. A reasonable density increase (i.e. a property zoned at 16 units per acre would increase to 32 units per acre).
  2. Church property that is zoned “commercial” to also become residential
  3. Church property that is zoned “public” to also become residential.

Talking Point #6. The opportunity. Church attendance is declining, Gallop says that 69% of U.S. adults were members of a church in 1998-2000, compared with 52% in 2016-2018. This is particularly the case within land-rich older and mainline churches. Some Churches are looking to off-load parking lots, high-maintenance buildings, and extra space. Patrick Scriven’s compares deferred maintenance at a church “to an onion because it has layers and it stinks.” 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 the 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, to facilitate this goal an overlay zone enabling all churches in the city to build on their property would provide a huge leap forward in addressing the housing crisis, especially now with the acute need for affordable housing. We are asking that this over-lay zone would go into effect when 50% of the units to be build would be affordable. The overlay zone would allow:

  1. A density increase (i.e. a property zoned at 16 units per acre would increase to 32 units per acre).
  2. Church property that is zoned “commercial” to also become residential
  3. Church property that is zoned “public” to also become residential.

Talking point #7.  We are asking for this zone change to be applied “By Right” which means the zone change would be applied automatically without discretionary approval if a church wishes to provide 50% of the units on their property to be affordable.

A good model for churches to follow is when Councilwoman Margaret McAustin initially met with her constituents in District 2, she made is clear that the decision has been made to build permanent supportive housing for 19 homeless families, but she asked neighbors to provide their input on the design, ingress, egress and more. She had a series of community meetings and this project built by National Core turned out stunning and is used as a model for permanent supporting housing for communities across the US.  

If neighbors who are fearful want to weigh in on projects, there are plenty of opportunities still do so, even if the project is “discretionary” as opposed to “by right” All affordable housing projects must go through design reviews and other public processes where the public can weigh in. It is part of the DNA of the Church Land Committee and any affordable housing developer to do extensive public engagement during pre-development phase. Typically concerns from disgruntled neighbors are addressed during this time. After many required public engagement meetings with neighborhood stake holders, they come to embrace projects. To access funding for such projects, public engagement is necessary.

This overlay zone could cut the cost of development by $100,000 and shave a year off its pre-development phase. This will attract quality developers and provide more certainty that the projects will be completed. All this is very good news.

Job opening: Community-Based Organizer

16 May


Job Title Community-Based Organizer



Committee Name and Purpose The North Fair Oaks Empowerment Team is committed to restore a divested and neglected area of Pasadena, from Washington Ave to Woodbury Rd on N. Fair Oaks Ave,  to its once vibrant and thriving business community that is safe, beautiful and affordable for its residents.


 Job Summary:  The role of the community-based organizer is help empower the community to realize its goals and dreams around such issues as affordable housing, safe streets, and jobs. This is a part time position at 10 hours a week.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Build relationships with residents, business leaders, pastors and other stakeholders to hear the concerns and learn of the assets within area on N. Fair Oaks from Washington to Woodbury
  • Mobilize leaders to meet with City officials, commissions, staff and City Council as needed to move the priority goals forward.
  • Spend approximately a third of the time in the community, a third in working with the city and administrative work, and a third of the time supporting the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment team.
  • Prepare monthly reports to be presented to the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Team
  • Set up monthly meetings: agendas, invites, facilitators, secretary, etc.
  • Move the strategic goals forward: affordable housing, safety and beautification.
  • To set up a workable communication system that enables sharing of contact information, of word and excel, and attachments.
  • Make sure that minutes are taken and sent out within 3 days after each meeting, with clear action items listed and those who are responsible. Follow up on each person with their action item.

Competencies needed for success:

  • College degree with organizing course work and/or organizing experience
  • experience in community organizing and working with people of faith;
  • flexibility, patience, interest in people;
  • willingness to listen, learn and share the vision of the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative;
  • willingness to try new things, creatively solve problems, show initiative.
  • willingness to follow directions, able to follow through and complete tasks;
  • ability to keep careful records, well-organized;
  • openness to giving feedback and suggestions;
  • commitment to making the work fun.

 Desirable but not required:

  • Spanish language competency desirable but not required;
  • Living in or near the neighborhood is also desirable;

Time frame: 10 hrs/wk. The position will be offered with two-month a training/discernment time to assure it’s a good fit.

Compensation: $20 an hour, with the possibility of an increase if grants are funded and additional support raised.

How to apply:  By June 5th, please send your resume and a cover letter to:

 DeWalt Brown/Pasa Alta West

1773 North Fair Oaks Avenue

Pasadena, CA  91103


or email dewaltbrown@gmail.com with Resume and your name on the subject line.






Is density exacerbating the COVID crisis? What would Jesus say about density? by Jill Shook

26 Apr

Greek villageToday I read a slanted article in the LA Times suggesting that urban density is bad because it doesn’t allow for social distancing. On the surface this may seem true, but it went on to say the opposite.

NY City’s Manhattan district with some of the highest density shows the lowest rate of the virus, while poorer areas where people color live are the hardest hit. Early social distancing helped slow the virus in other cities that are very dense. San Francisco Bay area has had only 1,300 cases and  LA has had only 1,900, with some neighborhoods, believe it or not, surpassing the density’s of NY. Seoul, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, some of the highest density cities in the world, have had a fraction of the cases compared to NY.  Density is not the problem. See: .Virus ruins state’s plan for urban density

One of my doctoral courses had us climbing to the top of a high rise apartment building in Hong Kong to meet families living on the roof with just a few boards and bunks to create a home for themselves. I was appalled at seeing this utter poverty amidst such wealth in all the stories below. Anthony Manousos, my husband, can’t get out of his mind a picture he saw of 400 sq ft studio apartment in Hollywood where three families are jammed into a tiny space with bunk beds stacked up to the ceiling. These images remind us of why higher density that requires  affordable housing is needed so that such families can have their own place where they can social distance. Social distancing  is a privilege that higher income folks with spacious housing can afford. If you are infected with COVID 19, you should self-quarantine for 14 days, keep 6 feet away from others, and use a separate room and bathroom if possible. This is not possible for many poor families. See: Overcrowding in LA may fuel spread of the virus The argument going around that density is bad is just not true. We need more housing that people can afford so they don’t need to overcrowd.

This is what is bad: Poverty, racism and over-crowding. The poor  have little chance to build up savings. They have to work. They go out using pubic transport, and work in crowded conditions to pick, prepare and package our food and provide so many of the services we enjoy.  Access to affordable good health care,  fair wages, just hiring practices, safe places to work, and zoning that allows for higher density are all solutions to the racial divide we are seeing today in statistics on who is being infected with COVID 19 .

Density is good as long as it requires affordability and green construction to mitigate the climate crisis. If we keep spreading our cities out, requiring more cars and gas, with long distances to places of work, worship and play, we are going in the wrong direction to help save our planet.

Anthony and I had the privilege of going to Greece a few years ago to visit his wonderful Greek relatives and meet my brother and his wife on Crete. (They were on holiday from Australia where they live).  We passed through countless small villages that were gone with a blink of an eye because they were so dense. We climbed up long stairs in the heart of these white and blue buildings, with one home on top others and few, if any cars in sight. Villagers didn’t need them. Everything was so dense you could easily walk to where you needed to be. I could imagine that these towns and villages must have been similar to what it was like at the time of Jesus.

I just did a search on “crowds” in the Bible. This word is mentioned 226 times from Genesis to Revelation. How could the prophets, Jesus, Peter and Paul share their messages without a crowd? At times, Jesus took crowds with him to the the countryside where he feed 5,000 and more.  Other times he walked the streets and people like the woman with an issue of blood came to him in a crowd. Sometimes the crowds were so big that short people l like me had to climb trees to see Jesus. And other times Jesus was so tired of the crowds he left to be alone.  After the death of Jesus, even the disciples were in a upper room–an indication of density. So what would Jesus say about density? I think he would support it, as long as it meant that those most vulnerable could have a place of their own to stay safe.. and especially in a time of pandemic.

“Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear.” Micah 4:4


4 Feb

Vine and Fig Tree

A Theology of Housing: Land, Limits and Jubilee Hospitality

By Dr. Jill Suzanne Shook

The UN declaration of Human Right declares housing as a human right, like the right to food and clothing. And Pasadena housing vision states:

“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.”

But what is God’s vision for housing? And what role do we play in realizing that vison?

The 8th century BCE prophet Micah declared:

Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own

fig tree, and no one will make them afraid. Micah 4:4

This oft repeated biblical text promises everyone a place to rest, a right to ownership, safety, and abundance (II Kings 18:31; Is. 36:16; Zech.3:10). These and other Scripture passages assert that everyone has a right to a place to call home.

A theology of land and homes—both necessarily bound together—is one lens by which to view the Bible. Walter Brueggemann, in his seminal work, The Land provides us with a sweeping idea of Israel’s relationship to the land:

…the Old Testament…was concerned with place, specific real

estate that was invested with powerful promises…Israel’s

fortunes between landlessness (wilderness, exile) and landedness,

 the latter either as possession of the land, as anticipation of the land, or as grief about loss of the land.

Isaiah gives of a glimpse into God’s intention for the land, what Dr. Ray Bakke refers to as a blueprint for an ideal city, where all are housed, and there is no gentrification or displacement:

They will build houses and inhabit them; they will also plant

vineyards and eat their fruit. “They will not build and another

inhabit, they will not plant and another eat. (Is.65: 21-22)

At times because of disobedience and natural disasters, God’s ideal is not realized. God allows his people to be uprooted and displaced. At the end of this twisted biblical road from the Garden of Eden to the

City of God (Rev. 20-21) God is bringing us all home. But is God leading us only to a heavenly home, or are we also being led to live securely in an earthly one?

Homes must be built on land, so we can’t discuss homes without discussing land and its use. How we view the land, how we steward it and honor God’s laws that govern it, have everything to do with

God’s overall message to save humankind to live not only in a heavenly home, but also to bring a bit of heaven on earth—an earthly home where we can safely experience God’s abundance and joy.

Biblical authors wrote extensively about land. The first sins in Genesis resulted in a marred land. The dispute over land between Abraham and Lot separated them. The land of Sodom and Gomorrah

was laid waste due to their neglect of the poor (Ezekiel 16: 49-50). Joshua is about equally dividing the land among the twelve tribes. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are about preparing a people to enter the

Promised Land. These books provide detailed laws and regulations to be obeyed once Israel is “landed” after forty years of wondering in the desert. Once in the land, the people wanted a king, so God sent prophets to hold kings accountable, warning Israel of losing their land if they neglect these laws. Lamentations is about grieving over the loss of land.

Sabbath was the key organizing principle of Israel. Duet 15: 4 provides us with the purpose of these Sabbath laws: “there should be no poor among you.” Leviticus outlines God’s rhythm of Sabbath practices to alleviate poverty.

First, every seven days the Israelites were to rest, a wise re-creation with limits placed on our bodies, minds, spirits and souls—with scheduled days for rest and coming together to celebrate and worship. (Leviticus 23:3 ) God rained down a powerful object lesson for forty years by providing twice the amount of manna on the sixth day to promote rest on Sabbath. What a powerful Sabbath lesson!(Exodus 16:1–36 )

Secondly, every seven years land was to rest from its work—a limit given to the soil’s work in order to regain its nutrients. Any farmer will say that land Sabbaticals are a wise economic practice, ultimately creating more productivity. Additionally, Leviticus 25 outlines how every seven years there was to be a limit on debt—a limit on the stress and burden of excessive un-payable debt.

Thirdly, the Sabbath principle continues with the year of Jubilee—every seven-times-seven-years. When the ram’s horn blows on the 49 th year and the 50 th Jubilee year begins, and that is when land

is returned to the original families. Essentially the land value was to revert to zero. For example, if you purchased property 45 years before the Jubilee, it would cost you more since you purchased the use of the land for 45 years. If you bought land five years before the Jubilee it would cost you less, since you would own it for only five years. If you were a real wheeler and dealer, buying up land during those 49 years, you knew there would be a limit to your ownership; you would have to give up some of your land in that 50th year.

The Bible had other policies in addition to the rhythms of the Sabbath to provide sustenance for his people. If you had made poor choices, or fallen on hard times, like Naomi or Ruth, there was also a limit to the consequences of your misfortune. Grace was applied, and you would again have access to a food perhaps by gleaning, and a home due to levirate marriage or no interest loans.

The concept of a Community Land Trust, where ownership of a home is separated from land ownership, was conceived from the practice of Jubilee. Today over 225 CLTs exist in US jurisdictions providing affordable homeownership. This model takes land off the speculative market and places a wise and needed limit by making homes in the trust permanently affordable. This model recognizes that ultimately “the land is Mine, thus sayeth the Lord.” (Lev. 25:23)

If we really believed that all land is God’s and to be governed by God’s laws, then how do we make our US policies consistent with God’s intentions? We must use God’s standards to measure the fairness of laws. We may feel secure “under our own vine and fig tree” in our own homes, but our security is not in our home, but in God. When we die, we will not be judged on our property values, but on how well we value our neighbors. If we want to be in harmony with Gods’ vision for society, we need the courage to put human values above property values. In God’s economy we obtain riches by letting go.

Ultimately, all we have is a gift from our Creator. That sets us free to share what we have and trust in God as our provider. No command is more important than to love God and neighbor as oneself. Israel yearned for a home and we are no different. If we want a nice home that we can afford in a good neighborhood, we should want that for others. And who is our neighbor? According to Jesus it the one most in need (Luke 10:25-37). Isaiah challenges us to exercise a true fast, where we “…bring to your house the poor who are cast out;” (Isa.58:7) and Moses warned us:

If there are any poor in your towns when you arrive in the

land….do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.

Instead be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not

be mean spirited and refuse a loan because the year of release

is close at hand. Duet.15:7-9

Here, the “year of release” refers to Jubilee. This is a challenge both to us personally and to our communities to be hospitable to the poorest among us, even if the Jubilee year is close at hand. Old Testament prophets directed their messages mostly to cities and nations. Jesus spoke to cities as well: “Woe to you Korizon and Bethsaida” (Matt. 11:21) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks”

(Matt. 24:37). We need to consider not only how our churches welcome the most vulnerable (Matt 25:40), but also how our cities reflect hospitality to all income levels. A community with much wealth requires a host of lower income workers to support a high-end lifestyle—gardeners, maids, those who run dry cleaners, restaurant workers and on and on. Policies that push lower income residents to live at a distance in order to afford housing create traffic. Policies that provide enough housing for all income, allowing workers to live close by and polices that prevent discrimination, is indeed good news not only for the poor but the whole community. God is seeking to redeem not only our souls, but also the very soul of our cities—bringing about life giving laws and structures. God is raising up city planners excited about God’s blueprint for cities. God is raising up developers of affordable housing and passionate law makers who are committed to decent housing for all income levels.

They are doing God’s work, although they may not yet know the God who gave them their passion. We need to partner with them, encourage them. And for those not supporting good policy, we need to hold them accountable.

Like Moses who trembled as he spoke to pharaoh to deliver his people from slavery, and Esther who risked her life to speak to the king to change an edict that would destroy her people, and all the prophets who spoke to kings, we too need to speak to our leaders with humility and the power of God. Jesus confronted the authorities twenty-seven time in the Gospels, and we should follow his example. Jesus died for our sins, but he also died because he challenged the status quo, to bring in a new system, a kingdom of love, mercy and justice.

Years of slavery, segregation and all the laws that have kept our nation divided were finally challenged by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who got the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968. Today many states have Housing Elements—planning tools that demonstrate how enough affordable housing for all income levels could be met for cities, unfortunately enforcement mechanisms are weak, with little political will to fund and build enough housing. Like the prophets of old and following the example of Dr. King, we can hold our cities and nation accountable to create affordable housing. We need to resurrect the kind of theology that speaks truth to power, that affirms advocacy as a ministry of the church. We can have wonderful vison statements and policies, but without enforcement to execute beautiful planning documents, nothing will happen. Dr. John Perkins often says “Justice is eternal vigilance.”

We need to watch City Council agendas with an eagle eye, show up, ask questions and propose excellent policies that are vetted and well researched within teams. Jesus had twelve men—but even with just five and few women we can transform policy and hold jurisdictions accountable. The prophets, priests (Lev. 14:43-4), kings (II Kings 8:1-6) and biblical community organizers (Neh. 5) all played significant roles in enforcing just housing practices. Although enforcement mechanisms are imperfect this side of heaven, God will ultimately hold us and our governments accountable for how we treat the least of these (Matt. 25:31-36).

After the 1949 US Housing Act that declared housing as a human right, for too many the opposite took place. Funds were releases for the removal of slums called “urban renewal” but this forced tens and thousands of people to relocate and lose their homes and communities. Not one person of color played a role in this drastic policy decision. Neighborhood were declared “slums” and demolished all too often simply because people of color lived in these homes. This happened in Pasadena and cities across the US. For this reason, this policy has been dubbed “Negro removal,” making way for civic centers and highways, pushing people of color out of view into segregated edges of cities.

The Israelites who remained in Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity were considered lower class and were discriminated against by the newcomers. After Nehemiah mobilized these Israelites to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he also had to step in to enforce the Jubilee, reminding those blinded by greed that they were hurting those within their own Israelite family. Unfair taxes and credit practices forced Jewish families to re-mortgage their homes and sell their children. Nehemiah, committed to keeping the Sabbath laws holy, demanded that these oppressors give back their houses and children and no longer charge interest to the poor as commanded in Exodus 22:25. Nehemiah imposed just limits on their cruel greed and love of money.

Sadly, in the end Israel refused to fully apply the Sabbath laws and the consequence were dramatic. The prophets screamed from heaven with warnings:

Enough, you princes of Israel! Stop all your violence and

oppression and do what is just and right. Quit robbing and

cheating my people out of their land! Stop expelling them

from their homes. You must use only honest weights and

scales… Ezekiel 45:9-10

…you hate honest judges and despise those who tell the truth.

You trample the poor and steal what little they have through

taxes and unfair rent.” Amos 5:10-11

When you want a certain piece of land, you find a way to seize

When you want someone’s house you take it by fraud and

violence….you have evicted women from their homes and

stripped their children of their God-given rights. Micah 2:2, 9

Destruction is certain for you who buy up property so others

have no place to live. Your homes are built on great estates so

you can be alone in the land. But the Lord almighty has sealed

your awful fate. With my own ears I heard him say, “Many

beautiful homes will stand deserted… Isaiah 5:7-9

The prophets proclaimed that Israel would lose their land, and they did. When Jesus came to earth, he came into a world with predatory lending practices, not unlike unjust land use and financial practices chronicled in the Old Testament. Matthew records:

“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and

you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You shamelessly cheat widows out

of their property and then, to cover up the kind of people you

really are, you make long prayers in public.” Matthew 23:14

Jesus broke into history exposing both personal and socioeconomic sins of the day. Jesus inaugurated his mission in his own hometown as he stood and opened Isaiah’s scroll in the synagogue and read his

mission statement:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed

me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to

proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the

blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the

Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:16-18

Scholars agree that the “year of the Lord’s favor” refers to Jubilee. After reading from the scroll, Jesus said, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” We don’t need to wait until the 49 th year to practice Jubilee. We can practice Jubilee everyday by taking land off the speculative market to make it affordable.

The Early Church understood this message, selling land and having all in common, perfectly fulfilling the purpose of the Sabbath laws stated in Deut.15:4, that there “shall be no poor among you”

“And there was no poor among them, because people who

owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to

the apostles to give to others in need” Acts 4:34.

This astounding declaration was a powerful evidence of the Holy Spirit! By invoking the Jubilee vision to establish his own ministry, Jesus put his finger on a festering societal wound, pointing out that only by courageous, radical obedience both the rich and the poor are set free. Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. Mark 10:28-30

Millard Fuller, who founded Habitat for Humanity was a wealthy man, owning cattle farms, and living in luxury. But his wife was tired of being married to someone addicted to work and money. She created a crisis in their marriage by going to New York on her own to consider what to do. This resulted in a mutual decision to start over, selling everything and recommitting their lives to God’s purposes. Fuller began testing the ideas of Habitat for Humanity in Georgia and later in Africa. Today Habitat is the largest home builder in the world—providing homeownership for low-income families throughout the globe. Fuller followed the example of rich Zacchaeus by abandoning his wealth. He also followed the example of Jesus who, “Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,” 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Can God be trusted to take care of us if we courageously follow the radical teachings of Jesus? There was enough manna in the desert for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Paul the Apostle quoted the manna passage in describing the purpose of money—essentially that wealth is a gift to be shared so that all needs are met. (Ex.16:18, II Cor.8:15). In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira, following Barnabas' example, also sold their land saying they were giving it all to God, but they lied and secretly withheld a portion of the proceeds. God made an example of them by cutting their lives short.

This extreme example brought awe to the Early Church, pushing them to radical obedience and integrity. Today we must again foster this healthy fear of God, and figure how the rhythms and limits of Sabbath laws apply within our cities and affirm where it is already happening. We need to exercise biblical real estate and city planning practices designed so that “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid.”

Can we really address the housing crisis? Some may say we lack enough land, yet we have air space over parking lots and unused church space. Family Promise houses homeless families within the four walls of houses of worship and Safe parking programs allow those experiencing homelessness to live in their cars, both programs coupled with case management and paths to permanent housing.

Some of the most densely populated countries in the world, like Singapore, have figured out how to adequately house their people. Do we believe this is possible in the US? “What do you want?” is the question Jesus often asked the blind and the lame. He challenged them to believe what felt impossible. Are we willing to do what it takes to believe housing is a basic human right and do whatever it takes to make housing happen? With prayer, creativity and the eyes of faith, we can address the housing crisis today. Due to the great housing shortage in California, a state law was passed that essentially rezoned the entire state saying anyone with a single-family home could build a “granny flat” or second dwelling unit.

California also has a density bonus law, whereby developers are allowed a higher number of housing units in their developments if they include a percentage of lower income units. This State law works in tandem with cities that have passed local Inclusionary policies, whereby a percent of all new units is set aside as affordable. This works like a biblical tithe, or gleaning, where a percent of all developments are required to be affordable. Pasadena’s Inclusionary Zoning requires that 20% of all new housing is affordable.

As of 2020, this one policy has produced 577 affordable units, included within high end developments, with no cost to the city. In fact, this policy has put over $26 million into Pasadena’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund—which has served to generate and preserve over 600 more units. To prevent any stigma, inclusionary units have the same amenities and are the same size as the higher end units. And to be sure we don’t lose these units to market rate; they are all permanently affordable. This is smart growth at its finest. In many California communities, half of their residents are severely cost burdened, in other words, they pay over 50% of their income on housing costs. For this reason, cities like Santa Monica, have increased their percentages of required set aside affordable units to 30% of the total development.

Additionally, today many California cities are passing rent control measures, establishing caps or limits on greed, in the midst of obscene rent increases of $500 to $1,000 a month. How will we steward the land on which our homes, cities and churches dwell? How will we help to plan our cities so that they are not exclusionary, but inclusive for all income levels and ethnicities? How do we support our elected officials, just as the prophets of old spoke truth to kings, holding them accountable to do the right thing? And thanking them when they do.

The Early Church did not maintain or settle for poverty, it ended poverty among them (Acts 4:34). In the same way we can end homelessness, as many cities are doing for veterans, women, children, and other homeless subpopulations. We know what ends homelessness, simply put, homes end homelessness. We need homes that are affordable, and in the case of the chronically homeless, Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). Much experimentation and research has resulted in today’s evidence-based best practices demonstrating that PSH work to end homelessness. Margaret McAustin, a City Council member in Pasadena, knew the value of PSH and gracefully told her constituents that she had made the decision that a city-owned parcel in her district would be used to house twenty homeless families. She did not give her constituents a choice but met with them over countless meetings to discuss the design and numerous other decisions, allowing input from the community. Today “Marv’s Place” looks like a Mediterranean villa and has won awards as the best PSH in all Southern California. The stated mission of one church in Pasadena was to provide affordable housing. After thirty years, they resurrected their original intent and today have over 500 units of Section 8 housing. Many churches own a few affordable units but rarely 500! Yet if churches help to pass good policy, they can multiply their efforts to create thousands of units. In the 1980s sixty churches in New York used their people power to organize, resulting in building 5,000 two- family homes—all for homeownership, all for low-income families.

This dramatically lowered crime, school-drop-out rates, and transformed congregations. These Nehemiah homes became the tool to infuse hope and serve as the economic engine that transformed Brooklyn and South Bronx. Twenty churches in Montgomery County, Maryland, were able to work with their county council to make 2.5 percent of all property taxes allocated into an affordable housing trust fund, enabling developers to make a significant step toward building enough affordable housing.

With a biblical foundation, love and the power of the Holy Spirit providing the motivation, courage and inspiration, the Church can set the pace and be an example of how to bring about housing justice. In this way, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4,).

Candidates stood in a 1907 Quaker Meeting house, as they shared where they stood on Affordable/Homeless Housing

21 Jan

candidates forum crowdStarting around 5:45 pm on Tuesday, January 21, people started pouring into the Quaker Orange Grove Friends Meetinghouse until every bench and every chair was filled. People filled the social hall as well as the worship space! Between 120-150 people attended, as you can see from this  picture. The Pasadena Now has an article about it:


You can also see it livestreamed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1tYtSpfV8k&feature=youtu.be

To find out where the candidates stand on crucial issues regarding housing in our city, click here:  Candidates Booklet 

Jill Shook made everyone laugh when she told them that she would consider voting for District Tyron Hampton for District 1, where she lives, but she first asked him to support a list of a 10 items. He agreed to 8. That was good enough, so she supported him. “But what’s most important,” Jill added, “is that he actually did what he promised to do. Now that candidates have written down and expressed their views, we can hold them accountable.”

This was a lesson that everyone heard and we hope took to heart.

Thirteen of the 15 candidates took part. (One candidate is running unopposed and another just spaced out.)

candidates forum participants

From left, Ryan Bell, Steve Madison, Tamerlin Godley, Gene Masuda, Char Bland, Felicia Williams (hidden from view), the moderator, Tricia Keane, Kevin Litwin, Major Williams, Victor Gordo, and Terry Tornek. Photo courtesy Ryan Bell via Twitter and published in Pasadena Now.

Many of the candidates thanked and spoke appreciatively of  our 20 year’s of housing justice efforts.

Anthony Manousos with over 35 years of being a Quaker, welcomed everyone at the beginning of the event. He said,

“As you can see, it’s very simple: no religious trappings. We don’t have a pastor or set order of worship. We come together here to worship in silence, guided by the Spirit, and speak only when we feel led by the Spirit. Our meetinghouse was built in 1907 and is one of the oldest church buildings in our city. Quakers have been committed to peace and justice work for 350 years, and our Meeting has a special concern for housing justice and immigration. l  want to thank all of you for showing up and showing your concern for homeless and affordable housing. ”

Jill spoke about the history of the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) and mentioned how it was birthed in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) office in the early 1990s.  You can read more the history here: History of GPAHG

We were pleased that several of the candidates support rent control (Rob Bell and Char Bland) and Gene Masuda who is presently on the council also expressed support. Almost almost all  of the candidates expressed support for permanent supportive housing and commercial development at the Civic Center. And Mayor Tornek said in his comments that he is not longer supporting a lawsuit against the state on the new ADU–Accessory Dwelling Unit policy, see:  New State Granny Flat Bills compared to Pasadena

Our work is faith-rooted and honors everyone, including elected officials we sometimes disagree with. An important element of this kind of activity is building relationships. People had a chance to meet and greet candidates at the end for around 45 minutes. People were excitedly discussing housing issues in a way that brought joy to our hearts as housing justice advocates.

Our faith-rooted approach has the  goal of not just persuading our elected officials, but also of listening and being open to hearing their viewpoint. Our ultimate goal is to create what Dr. King calls “The Beloved Community.” We felt we had a glimpse of the Beloved Community during this Forum.

We give God thanks to all those on our GPAHG team that worked so hard to make this a successful event: June William and Sonja Berndt who ran the sign-in table, Antonio who was the greeter, Morgan who did the live stream and also brought food along with Jennifer Lim and others.  Tom Petersmeyer and all who setup and cleaned up afterwords…. But a very special shout out to Miriam Tellez who was the key planner of the event. She spent hours detailing out every aspect of the evening and was an excellent time keeper with red stop and green go signs she painted. All had essential roles for which we are thankful. We give praise for what God is accomplishing through us. We want to thank Orange Grove Meeting for its support and encouragement.

Candidates who took part:

  • Victor Gordo, Jason Hardin, Terry Tornek, Major Williams (Mayor)
  • Felicia Williams, Kevin Litwin and Patricia Keane (District 2);
  • Charlotte Bland and Gene Masuda (District 4);
  • Ryan Bell, Steve Madison, Tamerlin Godley (District 6);

Martin Yuson was our excellent moderator, who asked the Candidates questions about how they will address the city’s housing and homelessness crisis, how they stand on issues such as Accessory Dwelling Units, gentrification, use of the Civic Center for affordable/homeless housing,  up-zoning, etc. Here is a list of questions that candidates responded to:

Questions for Candidates for GPAHG’s Candidates Forum

Opening question: Please discuss your vision for addressing the affordable/homeless housing crisis.

  1. Please share your thoughts about the new state laws that give homeowners the option to build a junior ADU inside the residence as well as an external ADU on the lot with fewer restrictions. Do you feel that the City should sue to prevent the state from preempting local control over zoning policies such as the building of ADUs?
  2. Many churches in this city have expressed interest in building affordable/homeless housing on their excess land, This might require changes in zoning and parking requirement. How do you feel about this?
  3. There is currently a debate about whether the Civic Center  should be used only for commercial use or for affordable/homeless housing as well as for commercial use. What do you feel is the best use of the Civic Center?
  4. There is a debate about whether new affordable/homeless housing  should be built in every district, including Northwest Pasadena where low-income people are being displaced due to gentrification. What is your opinion on this issue?
  5. Rising rents are a major cause of homelessness and displacement. Some say that rent stabilization will alleviate this problem, while others disagree. What is your view?

Closing Question: Sum up your hopes for what you can accomplish during your term in office to address housing crisis, or one of question that you care deeply about and didn’t get a chance to answer


Enjoy pictures and outline from our Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Groups Leadership Retreat on Sat, Jan 3rd, 2020 at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church

11 Jan

the full group except for Anthony

Click on “Leadership Retreat” to enjoy reviewing the outline of our day together. More pictures are below. You can click on each photo to learn more!

Leadership Retreat

Open letter to the Pasadena City Council and Comparative Analysis of the Impact of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in three Pasadena neighborhoods

7 Jan

GPAHG ADU Case Study Comparison

Dear Pasadena City Council,

After your decision on 12-9-2019  to pursue a lawsuit in response to the new ADU policies, and your feelings that the State was making an overreach and deconstructing our neighborhoods, I feel compelled to re-send you the comparative study we did in 2017 which analyzed three Pasadena neighborhoods with upwards to 90 legal ADUs in each one, demonstrating no real impact on these neighborhoods.

We first identified 740 legal ADU in Pasadena, grandfathered in before Pasadena’s restrictive ADU policy in 2003.  We then plotted them on a map and proceeded to analyze these three neighborhoods, one in the southern part of Pasadena, one in the central north and one neighborhood in NW Pasadena. Please carefully read our study. GPAHG ADU Case Study Comparison We put much effort into this and feel that now it the time to re-visit this in light of our concerns about possible negative impacts.

Since there are no demonstrable negative impacts, we’d like to know why some feel that this new state policies would “deconstruct” neighborhoods.  What is the basis for this?

This excellent article I mentioned last week at the city council meeting focuses on housing for the “missing middle” by use of ADUs and a number of other policies in Portland, Boulder (CO), and Cambridge (MA). Helping the “missing middle” has been a deep concern of the City for some time.

Again we thank you in advance for reviewing this before any further discussion about a possible lawsuit. Here is the article: Gentle Infill of ADUs address the missing middle

Additionally, it seemed as if there may have been a misunderstanding about some of the state policies allow. It’s very clear in your staff report and appendixes that Junior ADUs require owner occupancy. This indeed would prevent absentee landlords from buying a home and using it as a “cash cow.”  See number C. 5. on the staff report: Pasadena staff report on State Policies

Thank you for passing many good policies regarding ADUs in recent years. These new state laws propose little variation from what you approved in the past. Let’s wait and see if the concerns you have may actually materialize before preempting them before the community has a chance to help the city provide sorely needed additional housing units.

Jill Shook, Executive Director of MHCH -Making Housing and Community Happen and GPAHG-the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group

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