Council Approves Changes to Tenant Protection Ordinance

But ‘Not the answer,’ says Mayor, says City should look for more solutions to housing shortage

Published : Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | 4:45 AM

Rent control advocate Allison Henry gestures before Pasadena City Councilmembers during public comments about the City's Tenant Protection Ordinance on Monday, March 25, 2019. Photo by Eddie Rivera

Tenants whose buildings are sold to new owners and face increased rents or evictions are now eligible for compensation under the Pasadena’s Tenant Protection Ordinance.

That new modification is one of three unanimously approved by the City Council Monday.

The second modification would increase the Ordinance’s Relocation Allowance amount to 2.5 times the HUD Fair Market Rent.

The third modification would increase the relocation allowance for tenants who have maintained a tenancy for a minimum period of 10 years.

Previously Pasadena landlords were required to pay relocation benefits to displaced tenants in various situations, including when a rental unit is vacated due to demolition, conversion to condominium, permanent removal of the unit from the rental market, occupancy by the landlord or a family member; or a government order to vacate.

The new modification adds the sale of a property to these scenarios.

As a number of speakers at the Council meeting said 56% of residents in Pasadena are renters.

Pasadena landlords and tenants presented compelling testimony through more than two hours of testimony before the Council.

“This is really painful,” said Councilmember Steve Madison, after hearing tearful tales of renters unable to pay rent, along with accounts of landlords unable to pay for renovations to improve conditions for their renters.

“People deserve the right to live here,” Madison said. “This may be a situation where both sides are right.”

Councilmember Margaret McAustin agreed with Madison, and added, “This [ordinance] is not a solution. This is a supply issue. We won’t solve this problem without building more housing units in the City.”

McAustin also said that the Council would soon be looking at Inclusionary Housing Ordinance fees and other issues, in hopes of finding more solutions to increasing housing.

According to the Housing Department presentation by Senior Project Manager Jim Wong, the relocation allowance amount for affected renters is two times the Fair Market Rent adjusted for dwelling size, as published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For a 2-bedroom unit, the current relocation allowance is $3,326. The moving expense allowance is currently $1,199 for adult households and $3,608 for households with dependents, disabled or senior members.

The first modification was amended after a motion by Councilmember Tyron Hampton to expand the length of time that a rent increase will be considered to be “too large,” if it exceeds the Consumer Price Index PI + 5% in a 12-month period. The new, amended motion changes 12 months to 18 months.

The second modification will increase the Ordinance’s Relocation Allowance amount to 2.5 times the HUD Fair Market Rent from the current 2.0 rate; ostensibly the amount of first and last month’s rent that a tenant would typically have to pay to move into a rental unit.

The modification recognized that current market rents in Pasadena have exceeded HUD Fair Market Rent values, said Wong.

The total amount of the TPO Relocation Allowance for long term renters would be based on the length of tenancy. Each additional year of tenancy after the minimum 10 years would qualify the tenant for an increase of 10% on the TPO Relocation Allowance base amount. An eligible tenant with 20 or more years of tenancy, for example, would qualify for an amount equal to 200% of the base TPO Relocation Allowance.

The discussion brought forth adamant speakers on both sides of the issue.

A detailed presentation by three Caltech graduate students noted that 27 percent of renter households are “severely rent burdened,” paying more than half of their salaries to rent.

“Every ten dollars that you make, you’re paying five dollars to your landlord, said Jane Panangaden, “and just to be clear, being a landlord is not a job. Being a landlord means that you own property that allows you to extract a profit from your tenants who go to work every day, doing something productive.”

Rent control advocate Allison Henry noted that the new changes in the ordinance were the right idea, but were nowhere near enough. Henry also showed the council boxes filled with 10,000 signatures on petitions in support of rent control.

“I’ve done everything right,” wept former Huntington Hospital surgical scrub technician Rona Carrickett. “Why can’t I afford to live here? Decent human beings in this city can’t afford to pay $3,000 a month on rent.”

Resident Vincent De Stefano also noted that neither he nor his mother could afford to pay the rent on the homes they own.

‘If you’re looking for solutions,” he told Councilmember Madison, “raise my taxes.”

“This is a landlord protection ordinance, not a tenant protection ordinance,” resident Ed Washatka told the Council. “You need to look at this from a tenant’s perspective.”

But property owner Anthony Rose told the Council that a recent short sale purchase on a property required costly remodeling of the apartments, but that limited rent increases allowed made it more difficult to complete them.

“It’s ironic,” said Madison, “that we are providing penalties on the very group that is providing rentals.”

Mayor Tornek, just prior to the vote, told the council, “This issue is not going away.”

Tornek added, with regard to the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, “We recognize that times have changed, and we have to be a little bit more aggressive in terms of how we manage the process of creating more affordable (rental housing) units, but even in that, we can’t kid ourselves into thinking that that is the magic wand that is going to solve the affordable housing issues in Pasadena.”

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