Citing a lack of housing across all income brackets along with rents that rise faster than wages, Bill Huang, Director of the Pasadena Department of Housing, delivered a challenging but hopeful report to the Pasadena City Council Monday evening.
Huang pointed out that there is a rapidly growing senior population — the baby boomers — and that 54% of them cannot afford a rental lifestyle. Along with that, there is a rapidly increasing homeless population in the County.
“Across the board, according to the State, we need to produce 584 affordable units before the year 2022,” said Huang, citing the loss over the years of state redevelopment funds, which California has used to assist cities, counties and nonprofit community housing development organizations to create and retain affordable housing, as well as federal HOME funds,. There is also a current lack of participating landlords for local rental assistance housing programs like Section 8, Huang noted.
According to Huang’s report, there are currently 442 unsheltered homeless persons in Pasadena, 40% of whom are chronically homeless, unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to find consistent housing, such as overnight shelters. By comparison, there are currently 114,000 total homeless people in California—22 percent of the nation’s homeless population—with Los Angeles holding nearly 42,000 homeless residents.
But Huang also pointed out promising new developments in the battle for housing, including an increase in LA County funds, as well as the new “No Place Like Home” program recently proposed by the California State Assembly, which would provide a $2 billion bond to construct permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless persons with mental illness, as well as $200 million, over 4 years, to provide supportive housing in shorter-term rent subsidies, while permanent housing is constructed or rehabilitated.
There are currently 4,011 affordable housing units in Pasadena, scattered across the city, said Huang, a number which includes rentals and properties that are part of first-time homebuyer programs.
Huang also cited a number of housing projects currently under construction or being planned, including Heritage Square, Mar Vista Union, The Groves, and Desiderio Homes. There are an additional 470 units in the construction “pipeline,” said Huang, mentioning Decker Court and Heritage Square South.
Among the efforts to increase affordable housing in Pasadena are more outreach and incentives to landlords,with increased payments as well, along with “signing bonuses” for accepting housing vouchers, Huang reported. Union Station Homeless Services also has a 24-hour landlord hotline. There is also a desire to establish a new fund that would reimburse landlords for damages incurred by a housing department tenant.
Pasadena should consider an increase of its inclusionary affordability requirements in transit-oriented districts, as well as establish a new commercial linkage impact fees, said Huang.
Huang also recommended City Council consider a new “progressive second unit ordinance” that would promote the creation of second units, as well as the city’s consideration of affordable housing possibilities when acquiring new city land.
There are currently three city-owned sites as well, that Huang believes would be suitable for new permanent supportive housing. They are the Heritage Square South with the capacity to develop about 70 units, the Kinneloa site, and the Garfield and Holly project which would be across the street from City Hall, and would create 50 micro-units, as well as city department office space.
Huang also reminded the council that Pasadena, along with Austin, Tx, had earned the 2014 Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award from Urban Land Institute, a global nonprofit education and research institute, for having the best housing policy in the nation.