By Alex Cordero
Affordable housing continues to be a hot topic among Pasadena residents despite their incredible efforts to pass policies to increase inclusionary housing in new developments and decreasing the homeless count rate by 20% in 2019.
Judging by the number of local residents filling up a couple of big rooms during the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) forum, the turnout was a successful one.
Many local residents attended to listen in on what 2020 election candidates had to say about how they will address many of the current issues affecting housing in Pasadena.
Ryan Bell seemed to connect with the audience when he shared that he has been a long-term resident of Pasadena and has been a renter all of his life because he does not earn enough money to purchase a home in his community.
“I’m a tenant. I have always been a tenant. I’m 48 years old, I have been fully employed my entire life and I’ve never earned enough money to purchase a home — it is just the reality.”
Bell continued, “I’ve been evicted. I use to live just up the road here on Los Robles and Washington but my landlord decided he wanted to double the rent and without any reason at all he evicted me from my apartment.
“I quickly went to the city’s office thinking this must be illegal and it turned out that it was not illegal and there was nothing I could do about it.” Bell joined the Pasadena Tenants Union after overcoming that experience; unfortunately, his story is a common one among renting residents in Pasadena.
Local resident Brigitte Rooney has been living in Pasadena for five years but recently became interested in local politics. When I asked her if there was anybody she was impressed by tonight she immediately had an answer.
“Yes, I was impressed by District 6 candidate Ryan Bell, even though he is a newcomer to City Council he seems very impassioned about housing issues and his stance is less afraid and more confident and being more direct in his belief that housing is a human right.”
Rooney also shared that she attended the forum to learn more about mayoral candidates Jason Hardin and Major Williams because up until the forum she had been unfamiliar about who they are and where they stand when it comes to affordable housing.
A Pasadena native who requested to remain anonymous attended the forum because she appreciates the different types of messages each candidate delivers and the way they interact with the audience gives her a sense of how a candidate captures the attention of residents.
“I actually find the perspectives of the different candidates interesting even if they’re not from the districts I have lived in but the ideas that are being shared are relevant to the whole city — I appreciate that exchange. And I also attended because I want to know how they can deliver their message and you get that flavor, if you will, from forums like these.”
I also asked if there was a specific candidate they were impressed by from the panel.
“I really am impressed with Felicia Williams and I don’t live in District 2 but if I did I would vote for her.”
Williams is also a Pasadena native and during her opening remarks about her stance on affordable housing she was direct.
“I was born and raised in Pasadena and I’m very proud to be born and raised here. But when half the people that look like me have left the city, there’s a problem. There is a big problem. So I see it as a very different view on this [affordable housing] because I grew up here when I saw it happening over the last 47 years.”
Williams supports the idea of churches in the city interested in using their excess land for building affordable/homeless housing. She also feels the best use of the Civic Center — there is current debate in City Council whether to use the Civic Center for commercial use or affordable housing, or both — is to continue using it for community resources and to serve the people.
Jill Shook, chair of GPAHG and executive director of Making Housing & Community Housing, thanked everyone for coming and reminded everyone of the importance of getting involved: “You can look at what people have said tonight and you can hold them accountable.”
Please visit Making Housing Happen to find out how you can get involved and also if you are interested in learning about all the questions submitted to all of the candidates and their responses from the GPAHG forum.