By John Orona
Pasadena voters could decide on tougher rent control provisions and expanded eviction protections next year, if a newly formed coalition of civic organizations succeeds in its mission to add the measure to the 2020 ballot.
The Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition, an alliance of community organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America Los Angeles chapter, the American Civil Liberties Union Southern California chapter and Pasadena Tenants Union, announced their intention to start a ballot initiative focusing on tenant justice during the Pasadena City Council meeting on Monday.
“There’s a crisis of housing and its tenants that are suffering the consequences,” coalition member Vasilije Dobrosavljevic said during public comments. “It just doesn’t seem that this council cares enough to do anything meaningful about the root cause of this serious crisis,” he said, “so as Pasadena residents we’re ready to take matters into our own hands.”
The group says their initiative will focus on limiting rent increases to the cost of inflation and only allowing evictions if a tenant violates their rental agreement.
The coalition’s announcement came on the same night that the council received a report on the 2019 Pasadena Homeless Count, which found a 20% decrease in homelessness in the city on that night and called for more investment in permanent supportive and affordable housing to combat the crisis.
“The forces driving people into homelessness persist, including rising housing costs that exceed household incomes and a long-standing lack of affordable housing,” the report read. “Due to sharp rent increases in recent years,” it said, “many low and middle-income households who are working can no longer afford these high rents and have fallen into homelessness.”
Median rent prices in Pasadena rose more than 7% in 2017, the last year of available data. According to the report, job loss was the most frequently cited reason for homelessness at 30%. With rents on the rise and few Americans prepared for any emergency, the data paints a picture of widespread housing insecurity for those barely avoiding homelessness.
More than half of all Pasadena renters are considered rent-burdened, according to the report, meaning they spend over 30% of their income on housing, and 27% are severely rent-burdened, spending 50% or more of their income on housing.
When the average income spent on rent in a given community exceeds 32%, rapid increases in homelessness and housing insecurity become likely, according to a Zillow report. More than 43% of Pasadena renters spend 35% or more of their income on rent currently.
In addition to an overall decrease in the homeless population, the report also saw a 31% decrease in people on the street, suggesting successful efforts in rapid rehousing and emergency shelter initiatives. Notably, no unsheltered families were tallied as part of the count, compared to eight families last year.
According to the city, it was able to permanently house 149 last year through rapid rehousing or permanent supportive housing programs in Pasadena and throughout the County.
The Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition will host a launch party at Throop Church from 7-9 p.m. at 300 S. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena.