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Council to Review Affordable Housing Policy and Production in Pasadena

Published on Monday, November 23, 2020 | 5:00 am

In March, a California Affordable Housing Needs Report, published by the California Housing Partnership, suggested there was a drastic need for more affordable housing in California. Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated that need.

On Monday, the Pasadena City Council will review the existing affordable housing situation in Pasadena and discuss the potential challenges and opportunities to increase affordable housing.

Under state law, all California cities are required to provide capacity for their fair share of existing and future regional housing needs. Every eight years, this fair share assignment is determined through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process, which requires jurisdictions to adopt a Housing Element that shows compliance. 

Pasadena’s current RHNA allocation calls for the city to meet a near impossible quota of  9,409 housing units before 2029, including 2,379 very-low-income units, 1,659 low-income units, 1,562 moderate-income units, and 3,449 above-moderate-income units.

According to the Department of Planning and Community Development, Pasadena’s current Housing Element runs from 2014 to 2021 and has been recognized by the state through the Urban Land lnstitute’s National 2014 Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award. 

Even with its outstanding planning and policy efforts, the city does not actually build housing and, like most cities, has fallen short of producing the number of units identified in the RHNA process. Currently, the city has 2,799 units that are deed-restricted as affordable, the Planning Department said. In addition, there are 907 affordable units that are either under construction or in the planning stage. 

During Monday’s City Council meeting, the Planning Department will provide an update on the city’s affordable housing effort. 

The programs and policies that the city has been implementing include inclusionary housing, adopted in 2001, where developers of housing projects consisting of 10 units or more are required to set aside 20 percent of the units as affordable; the imposition of in-lieu fees, which a developer may choose to pay as an alternative to providing affordable units on-site; actually funding affordable housing units with federal dollars; conversion of hotels to affordable housing; and establishment of SRO (single-room occupancy) units as an allowed land use.

The Planning Department will also brief the City Council on the challenges facing the affordable housing effort, among which is the fact that Pasadena is largely built out, resulting in a scarcity of available land for affordable housing. 

On the other hand, the department is looking at several opportunities to achieve the city’s affordable housing goals, including amending certain city regulations to allow for affordable housing development on Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) property and on property owned and operated by religious institutions.

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