Will Pasadena be the next city to adopt rent control? Voters will decide this election

With rising inflation and rising rents, California cities have adopted new forms of rent control. Next month, voters in Pasadena will decide whether their city joins the trend.

Measure H, a November ballot initiative, would limit annual rent increases and enact new eviction protections in Pasadena.

LISTEN: Will rent control come to Pasadena?

Proponents say rent control will stop the kinds of double-digit rent hikes that are currently wreaking havoc on household budgets and pushing people out of town.

Housing Policy Fellow at UCLA Lewis Center Shane Phillips said the steep rent increases “add fuel to the fire and make people feel that [rent control] is even more necessary.

Owner groups are strongly opposed, saying new limits – in addition to changing COVID eviction protections and rising maintenance costs – could drive small homeowners out of business.

“What the activists didn’t like was that the local city council didn’t agree with their position,” said Frederic Sutton, spokesperson for the California Apartment Association. “They’re going to try to put it on the ballot and convince people that this is some kind of good housing policy.”

    PJ Johnson stands outside the Pasadena apartment where his monthly payment recently increased by $110.

PJ Johnson stands outside the Pasadena apartment where his monthly payment recently increased by $110.

About 57% of Pasadena households rent rather than own their home. Many tenants told us that they were facing enormous financial pressure and an uncertain future.

“I live and work for my rent,” said PJ Johnson, a gardening teacher at local Pasadena schools, who shares a one-bedroom apartment with his teenage son.

Johnson recently got a $110 monthly raise on his unit. She wants to stay in Pasadena at least until her son graduates from high school. She’s not sure she can.

“I can barely afford it. Like, it’s suffocating me,” Johnson said. “If it goes up another $100, I don’t know how we can do it.”

In this economic context, Measure H will be a key test of voters’ desire to extend rent control to more of Southern California.

A ‘now or never’ moment for Pasadena rent control

On a recent Sunday morning, volunteers gathered in Jefferson Park in Pasadena learn how to pitch their neighbors to support the rent control measure. After receiving instructions from campaign manager Bee Rooney, they deployed to spread the word about Measure H.

The measure would limit annual rent increases to 75% of the local consumer price index (a commonly cited measure of inflation) and require landlords to provide “just cause” to evict tenants in Pasadena, as non-payment of rent or the cause of a nuisance.

Walking from door to door, volunteer Jane Panangaden recalled collecting signatures to qualify Measure H for the November ballot.

“One of the most common responses I received when collecting signatures was, ‘We needed this 10 years ago. We needed it 20 years ago,” she said. “People have eyes. And they can see what’s going on.

    Jane Panangaden leaves a Measure H campaign flyer at the door of the Pasadena home.

Jane Panangaden leaves a Measure H campaign flyer at the door of the Pasadena home.

Panangaden stopped to chat with Allison Nagle, who was working in the garden in front of her house. Nagle said that as a landlord she would not directly benefit from rent control, but her children might.

“I have two college-graded kids who still live at home because they can’t afford to live in their own apartment,” Nagle said.

Panangaden said she hears concerns like this all the time, and she urged Nagle to vote yes on Measure H.

“I really appreciate the support,” she said. “It has been a five-year community effort to get this on the ballot. So it’s a now or never moment.

Most Pasadena households burdened by high housing costs

A typical two-bedroom apartment in Pasadena now costs nearly $2,500 a month, according to the city’s latest report. urban planning file.

City officials calculate that 56% of residents pay more than the recommended 30% of income for housing payments. These housing costs can end up forcing families to cut back on other necessities like health care and education costs.

Tenant organizers began pushing the Pasadena City Council to pass rent control years ago. When that didn’t work, they tried and failed to qualify for the ballot in 2018. The City Council recently voted to remain neutral on Measure H, without officially supporting or opposing it.

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California voters have rejected rent control in the past. Statewide rent control initiative Proposition 10 failed by nearly 19 percentage points in 2018, and another statewide proposal failed by an equally wide margin. important in 2020.

But emerging from a disastrous pandemic and with limited affordable housing continuing to disappear, things could be different this time.

“Housing is getting more and more expensive,” said Shane Phillips of the Lewis Center at UCLA.

Under state law AB 1482, which allows rents to rise faster than inflation, landlords can now increase rents by up to 10% in cities that do not have local rent controls. Phillips said wages haven’t kept up.

“More and more people feel like they’re not going to own a home and get the security of a mortgage,” he said. “It’s kind of the next best option. If I’m going to rent for who knows how long, at least I can have those protections to know that I won’t have to be moved from house to house every the few years.

Why rent control is spreading in California

In recent months, cities in California – such as Pomona and Bell Gardens in LA County and Antioch in the Bay Area – have responded to tenants’ financial difficulties by pass new rent control laws. There are also proposals on the November ballot to strengthen existing rent control requirements in Santa Monica and Richmond, Calif.

Leon Khachooni with the Foothill Apartment Association said landlords do not want to see rent control extended further. He said they have already been struggling with tenants deferring rent payments during the pandemic, as well as high inflation.

“The cost of pretty much everything going through the roof — maintenance, water heaters, roofs, construction in general — that’s hit them pretty hard as well,” Khachooni said.

Rent control will hurt small landlords, Khachooni said, but it won’t create more affordable housing. He said just look at the high prices in Santa Monica and the city of Los Angeles – they’ve had rent control for decades, and what do they have to show for it?

Retired tenants feel squeezed out of Pasadena

    Lorynne Young looks out the window of her bungalow apartment in Pasadena, where she recently won a nearly 10% rent increase.

Lorynne Young looks out the window of her bungalow apartment in Pasadena, where she recently won a nearly 10% rent increase.

But many tenants are more concerned about the double-digit rent hikes they’re getting right now.

The monthly rent for Lorynne Young’s apartment is about to increase by $140. Retired and on a fixed income, the rent will soon eat up 63% of her budget.

“You can’t just walk out and say oh, I’m just going to go get a part-time job. They don’t hire old people,” Young said. “It’s a scary thing to think about. am I going to do?”

Young said other tenants in his Pasadena bungalow had recently received rent increase notices of up to 10%. She knows that homelessness is increasing faster among older people than for any other age group in LA County.

“I started researching trying to get listings for affordable housing projects,” Young said. “But there are waiting lists. It’s not like you can just find a new place very quickly.

Who finances the campaigns for and against measure H?

Major funders of Measure H include a 2015 SEIU Local Long-Term Care Workers Union political action committee and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit known for fund low-growth initiatives.

Funding to defeat Measure H comes largely from real estate agents and homeowner groups.

A point of contention was the rent control commission the measure would create. Opponents claim that unelected board members would not be accountable to the city council and would be a waste of public spending. But supporters say the independent board would play a crucial role in investigating violations and enforcing compliance.

Campaign volunteer Jane Panangadan said that whenever she went out to support Measure H, almost everyone she met thought the rent was too high.

She said: “If you talk to somebody at the door who just got a rent increase notice, they’re like, ‘Yeah, sure, I want to vote yes on that.

Even undecided voters told him rents needed to come down.

Landlord Juan Sosa said on the one hand that rent control could potentially limit his future income if he decides to become a landlord one day.

On the other hand, he sees his colleagues and neighbors leaving Pasadena because of high rents.

“It looks like they’re being kicked out,” Sosa said.

What questions do you have about housing in Southern California?

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