During its 25-year history, GPAHG has been a tireless advocate for affordable and homeless housing in the greater Pasadena area. It began in 1995 as an all-volunteer group under the care of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and is now part of a nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen, newly founded in 2018. With around 20 active members and hundreds of supporters, GPAHG takes a faith-rooted approach to organizing churches, partners and individuals concerned with housing justice: ending homelessness and ensuring decent and affordable housing for low and very low-income residents through just and enlightened policies. For the past 20 years, GPAHG has consistently met with City Council members, Planning Commissioners and developers, raising key questions about housing policies in the city.
Here are some of GPAHG’s the many successes over the years: (for a complete history, see here)
1990s - the Affordable Housing Action, GPAHG’s precursor, began to advocate for rent control in Pasadena, without success. (In 2017 this cause was taken up by the Pasadena Tenants Union and continues to be supported by GPAHG, with promising results).
2001 - GPAHG played a role in crafting and passing the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance which requires developers who build more than 10 units to set aside 15 % as affordable, pay a fee or build off site. As of March 2019, this policy has produced over 577 affordable units, with no cost to the city, and helped provide Pasadena’s affordable Housing Trust Fund with over $21 million. These funds have been leveraged to produce and preserve 690 more units. GPAHG also advocated for an increase in the in-lieu fee for developers who prefer to pay a fee rather than build inclusionary units on site.
2005-2006 - GPAHG advocated for this surplus land of the Desiderio Army Reserve Center under the famous Colorado Street bridge to be used for nine Habitat homes.
2007 - GPAHG exposed how Pasadena Manor had wrongfully evicted elderly residents, obtained front page headlines to highlight this issue, mobilized community support, and helped them secure legal representation so that the 157 of these residents were able to obtain relocation costs.
2008 - GPAHG successfully advocated for a Housing Department separate from the Planning Department. This has significantly increased the production of affordable housing in our city.
2010 -2019 - As a result of GPAHG’s input, a large apartment complex called Westgate set aside 20% of their proposed 800 units to be affordable for very low income residents, resulting in 97 units indistinguishable from the luxury units near Old Pasadena jobs and the metro line—keeping cars off the road. GPAHG has met with other residential developers, challenging them to include the 15% of affordable housing units at the lower income levels. In 2018 when a 550-unit apartment complex was proposed in east Pasadena, GPAHG won the unanimous approval of the City Council for that developer to include the 15% affordable. GPAHG’s Inclusionary subcommittee diligently worked on a proposal to update the city’s policy to increase it’s production. See his link for the proposal:
2012 - GPAHG wrote a 21-page detailed analysis of Pasadena’s 2014-2012 Housing Element Draft which ultimately lead GPAHG to contact HCD (the state housing dept) resulting in the draft not being accepted without the city including more deadlines and accountably. Those deadlines now give GPAHG the leverage needed to hold the city accountable to meet them. GPAHG’s efforts helped the City to win several awards, declaring this Housing Element as the best in the state as a model for all other California cities.
2014 - GPAHG was alerted to Fuller Seminary’s sale of 197 student housing units to Carmel Partners, a luxury builder, and by so doing breaking their 2006 agreement with the city to keep these units affordable. For the past few years, GPAHG has tried to convince Fuller to leave a legacy of affordable housing when it leaves the city, particularly at Chang Common.
2016 - GPAHG stopped a proposed anti-camping ordinance which would have criminalized homelessness in Old Pasadena and other business districts. GPAHG succeeded in advocating for the Planning Commission to focus on affordable housing twice a year with an eye toward the implementation of the Housing Element. Additionally, two workshops a year will now be held by the Housing Department. Topics have included: ADUs and the Pros and Cons of a Housing Commission.
2017 - GPAHG won a stronger Tenant Protection Ordinance, cleaning up a loop hole that allowed landlords not to pay relocation fees if they put their tenants on month-to-month rental.
2018 - GPAHG succeeded in lowering the property size requirement for Accessory Dwelling Units (Granny Flats) from 15,000 s.f. to 7,200 s.f and succeeded in lowering the impact fees for an ADU from $20,000 to $957 if the homeowner agrees to: 1) an affordable housing covenant 2) to rent to Section 8 tenant 3) or to a family member. As a result, 40 granny flats were built in the first year, and 13 of them for lower income tenants. (Only one granny flat was built in the previous 15 years because of the City’s restrictive ordinance.)
2018 - GPAHG worked with the City Council to approve using city-owned property at Heritage Square for 69 units of housing for homeless seniors. Because of GPAHGs support along with other concerned citizen, the Council also approved an ordinance that will facilitate the conversion of motels to homeless housing. In addition, the Mayor recommended that a vacant city-owned YWCA be used for homeless housing. GPAHG’s Homeless Housing Subcommittee is advocating building enough permanent supportive housing (PSH) to reduce our homeless count by at least 50% in the next five years. PHS is what ends homelessness by providing stable homes and supportive services for those who have been homeless.
2019 - Homeless housing: We successfully advocated for 134 units of permanent supportive housing (which ends chronic homelessness) at the Heritage Square South and the Salvation Army sites. We conduced vigils in front of the city-owned YWCA advocating for the approval of 94 more affordable housing units, half for homeless neighbors, half for low-income families, and the City Council is now calling for affordable housing at the Civic Center.
2019 - Housing Preservation: On Martin Luther King day, 2019, we planned a prayer vigil to preserve 169 affordable units in Chang Commons on the Fuller Seminary campus with over 100 in attendance. This event and the team that emerged from it helped to preserve these units and keep Fuller Seminary in Pasadena.
2019 - Church Land: We started a new subcommittee to help churches interested in building affordable housing on their land to go down that path with expert consultation. This team is now working with ten churches in Pasadena and southern CA cities.
2019 - ADUs: We formed a team that is researching how to make Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs or “granny flats”) more affordable with pre-approved designs and other ways to streamline. This team has supported the many new state ADU policies that makes it easier to build ADUs.
2019 - Education: We collaborated with Everyone In to plan three Homeless to Housed Bus tours, filling busloads of key leaders from San Gabriel Valley cities to tour permanent supportive housing. The goal was to educate and inspire people to become advocates for permanent supportive housing, which ends homelessness.
2019 - Education: We had monthly educational forums on gentrification, theology of land and housing, community land trusts, rent control and other tenant protections, trauma in homelessness and supportive housing. We also held a candidate forum on affordable/homeless housing that drew 13 candidates and 150 attendees.
2019 - CLTs—We are forming a team with the goal of starting a Community Land Trust (CLT) for the San Gabriel Valley. CLTs are a model that insures permanent affordability because homes are purchased, but not the land, making it affordable. Then homeowners agree to keep their home affordable when they sell it.
2019 - Inclusionary: We successfully advocated to increase the affordable housing set aside (which has created over 1000 units of affordable housing since 2001) so that new developments of more than 10 unit must have 20% affordable units (instead of 15%) or pay an in lieu fee to build affordable units elsewhere. Advocates from San Gabriel, Alhambra and Monrovia joined out team and are now working on these policies in their community.