Tenants' Rights Advocates Plan to Build on Momentum Picked Up During Eviction Moratorium Hearings

The eviction moratorium “was just the beginning,” said one tenants rights advocate

Published : Tuesday, November 12, 2019 | 5:51 AM

Despite rush passage of a Pasadena ordinance adopting protections of a statewide law that caps rent increases and prohibits no-fault evictions almost two months before the state version goes into effect, local housing activists say there is still a lot more work to be done.

California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8.

The act limits rent increases to five percent plus cost of living increases and landlords cannot evict residents without just cause.

Pasadena’s new ordinance also rolls back evictions that happened after Oct. 8 and gives local tenants a tool they can use in court against no-cause evictions. Tenants who faced rent increases after March 19 will see a rollback in their rents.

“We have seen that the residents of Pasadena want more done about housing in Pasadena,” said Allison Henry of the Pasadena Tenant Union. “Also, the state cap in AB 1482 is still high [5%+CPI is currently over 8%], and rent can be raised twice a year to get to that cap.”

Henry said the Pasadena Tenants Union plans to build on the momentum.

“This was just the beginning,” she said. “Also, there are loads of habitability issues that tenants need support with. There is still much work to be done but we have the community with us on this journey.”

Pasadena’s ordinance serves as a stop-gap between the signing of the state bill by Newsom and Jan. 1, 2020, when it goes into effect.

According to activists, there was a surge in rent increases by landlords playing beat the clock against the state bill’s implementation.

Local realtors said they have not seen evidence of that surge.

Rents in Pasadena are among the highest in the state. Some one-bedroom apartments go well over $2,000. The high prices led to a failed push for rent control last year. Organizers still plan on pushing a rent control ballot measure.

“A 7 percent rent increase amounts to an average $175/month increase [on rent of $2,500] that’s still enough to put a lot of people out on the streets,” said District 6 City Council Candidate Ryan Bell. “That’s why PTU and PTJC [Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition] will continue to fight for rent control that limits rent to the consumer price index.”

Housing costs are thought to have contributed to the decline in enrollment in the Pasadena Unified School District, which has lost 1,170 students over the past five years. The district makes about $10,000 in average daily attendance funds. The loss of so many students has wielded a significant impact on the District.

“Half of the tenants in this city are already rent-burdened (meaning that over 30% of their household income goes straight to rent),” said Jane Mariam Panangaden of the PTU.

“Rent burdened tenants are unable to accumulate savings and are one crisis away from losing their housing. The rents are already too high, and if we allow them to continue to increase faster than inflation the problem will continue to get worse,” Panangaden said. “We need a much stronger cap on allowable rent increases to keep people in their homes.”

She said a ballot measure being drafted by a coalition of Pasadena tenant rights organizations is in its final stages of preparation.

“Our ballot measure would improve relocation assistance, reign in predatory tenant buyouts, create a rental board with tenant representation to actually enforce some of our protections and create a ‘rental registry’ so we can track the rental housing stock in the city and identify landlords who are systematically acting in bad faith.”

“Finally, we must remember that AB1482 is a temporary measure; it sunsets in 2030. We need to use the momentum we have now to lock in permanent protections for tenants.”

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