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Pasadena Tenants Union Supports California Local Rent Control Initiative

Average rents in Pasadena’s newest “luxury apts.” can be between $2,000-3,000 leaving tenants with little left over to buy food or pay bills. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

By Terry Miller

While locally the Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU) drew short the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot, now the grassroots organization, as well as other concerned groups, is positioning that energy towards the statewide initiative in November.

In 1995 “the real estate industry targeted California for increases in rents. Passage of Costa Hawkins was an important component in this strategy. Pursuant to the Costa Hawkins law, local jurisdictions were prohibited from imposing rent control on multifamily residential units that were built after 1995,” vacancy decontrol, and individual rental units – such as rented single family homes and condos. “Vacancy decontrol resulted in rents escalating to market rate each time a tenant moved. Local control is a very important step in achieving housing stability for tenants, especially in those jurisdictions – like Pasadena – where gentrification has a strangle hold on the community.  It is crucial that affected renters and their representatives most familiar with local conditions make these kinds of housing decisions — not Sacramento” said Michelle White, member of Pasadena Tenants Union.

The California Local Rent Control Initiative (#17-0041) may appear on the ballot in California as an initiated state statute on November 6, 2018.

The measure would allow local governments to adopt amendments, ordinances, or regulations to govern how much landlords can charge tenants for renting apartments and houses. The measure would also repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a law designed to prohibit local governments from enacting rent control on buildings first occupied after February 1, 1995.

On April 23, 2018 the Coalition for Affordable Housing announced that more than 565,000 signatures were filed for the ballot initiative. A total of 365,880 signatures need to be valid—64.8 percent of those submitted—for the initiative to make the ballot.

The summary provided for inclusion on signature petition sheets is as follows:

“Repeals state law that currently restricts the scope of rent-control policies that cities and other local jurisdictions may impose. Allows policies that would limit the rental rates that residential-property owners may charge for new tenants, new construction, and single-family homes. In accordance with California law, provides that rent-control policies may not violate landlords’ right to a fair financial return on their rental property.”                                                                                                                                        

In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the median rent for counties in California. The statewide median rent estimate was $1,297 per month. The counties with the highest median rents in California were concentrated along the coast, from Sonoma County to San Diego CountySan Mateo County, located in the San Francisco Bay Area and with a population of 764,797, had the highest median rent in California at $1,830 per month. Modoc County, located at the state’s northeastern edge and with a population of 8,795, had the lowest median rent at $681 per month.

POP, a multi-issue community activist organization, that led the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and worked with the City Council and Pasadena Police to protect immigrants, aggressively fought for affordable housing in Pasadena.

POP endorses the statewide campaign to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, a 1995 state law adopted at the bidding of the landlord lobby. The current law prohibits cities from adopting strong rent control laws. If Costa-Hawkins is repealed, Pasadena will be able to adopt a rent control law that allows landlords to gradually increase rents each year, while protecting tenants from unfair harassment, unexpected rent hikes, arbitrary evictions, and rent gouging.

Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU) is a grassroots movement founded in November 2016 by tenants and homeowners.  They are a membership body of volunteers and have no paid staff. PTU was born due to the growing pressure on tenants in the City.

June 13, 2018

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