League of Women Voters Convenes Confab on Rent Control, Tenants Rights

Published : Thursday, May 2, 2019 | 4:50 AM

The issues of rent control and tenant protections will be front and center at a May 3 presentation convened by the League of Women Voters-Pasadena Area.

“Rent Matters: What Protections and Practices Need to Be In Place to Stabilize Tenancies?” will feature Michelle White, a local civil and tenants rights advocate, who will moderate the program.

White will do some role-playing and present the positions of the Apartment Owners Association, providing the landlords’ perspective.

The renters’ spokesman will be Walt Senterfitt of the Pasadena Tenants Union, which joined the Equitable Housing Coalition in a drive to ballot a rent control measure for the November 2018 election that fell 2,112 signatures short of qualifying.

White told Pasadena Now the “League Day” presentation is part of the process by which the group’s policy positions on rent control and tenant protections will be arrived at. Next month, a like forum will tackle the issue of affordable housing.

White painted the panorama of a city where the majority of households are renters; possibly as many as 57 percent. These dwellers are looking at increases in the costs of their units, increases, she said, that outpace those in income.

“So there’s a disparity there,” she stated, “and we’re trying to grapple with how to make tenants secure in their housing and, at the same time, allow landlords to have enough income so that they make sure their places are well-run and the maintenance taken care of.”

Landlords, White explained, struggle to remain competitively priced in the face of new and luxury housing coming into the market. The critical mass of luxury housing coming online, she noted, is gentrifying the city to the point where Northwest Pasadena and East Pasadena, once reliable redoubts of affordable housing, are experiencing higher rents as well.

“People who’ve lived here for generations are now having to move because they can no longer afford to stay,” she observed.

To top it all off, there is a statewide affordable housing crisis.

“Many people believe that the way you get out of that is to build more units so that everybody has an opportunity to be housed,” said White, “but there are tenants advocates who say that’s not the answer because right now you have no control over the affordability of what’s being built.”

Allison Henry is a member of the Pasadena Tenants Union. She sees much the same landscape for renters White does.

“Stark,” is what she calls the situation.

Henry will be presenting data at the event, from the State of California, demonstrating the divergence of wages and rent White discussed. The information imparted is intended to render, “a picture of the precarity of the renter living situation and how it impacts other parts of the community.”

The City of Pasadena is, she said, “out of step with other municipalities” when it comes to rent control and tenants rights and the city council, “unresponsive to the needs of 57 percent of their population.”

There is, she suggested, an overrepresentation of landlords on the Pasadena City Council and, thus, the potential for conflicts of interest. In Glendale, she noted, the lone city councilperson that was a landlord recused himself from voting on a rent control measure.

Henry said the city council’s recent modifications to the Tenant Protection Ordinance would benefit very few renters.

Instead, she ventured two initial palliatives in response to renter precarity: first, some type of rent freeze or long-term rent control law; second, more rigorous inspection of apartment stock by city officials to ensure that tenants are paying market prices for apartments that are in market value condition.

Such is not always the case in Pasadena, she said.

The League Day is taking place at the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 North Oakland Avenue. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the program runs through 11:45 a.m.  Click here to register.

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