PASADENA, Calif. — Renters in Pasadena rejoiced on the steps of City Hall Monday to celebrate the certification of election results ushering in new rent controls. In November, voters approved Measure H to restrict the amounts landlords can increase rent, roll back rents and provide eviction protections. The measure, which passed with 54% of the vote, takes effect Dec. 22.

“This is a huge win for the half of Pasadena residents that are renters,” said Measure H campaign field director and Pasadena renter Bee Rooney.

Under Measure H, landlords can only raise a tenant’s rent once per year and at a rate that is up to 75% of the annual pace of inflation. Evictions will also require just cause, such as a tenant not paying rent or somehow breaching a lease. Landlords who issue no-fault evictions will need to provide relocation assistance. 

Measure H also establishes a rental board to implement and enforce the new rent control provisions, as well as a registry to track data, including who owns a property, how much rent is charged and whether any complaints have been filed. 

“To truly address the housing crisis, we have to have data,” Rooney said. “We keep asking, ‘What are the numbers? Where are they? Who is this happening to?’ Well, now we can actually answer some of those questions.”

According to the 2019 American Community Survey, about half of the tenants in Pasadena are rent burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on housing. About 25% are severely rent burdened, paying more than 50% of their income. 

While the rental board is likely to take up to four months to establish, many Measure H provisions will take effect next week. Starting Jan. 1, renters whose units were built before Feb. 1, 1995, that are not a condo or only unit on a lot can start paying the rent they were charged for that space May 17, 2021, regardless of how much the rent may have increased since then.

Landlords who want to increase rents from that May 17, 2021, level need to serve their tenants with a 30-day notice of the increase. For tenants who moved in before that date, landlords are restricted to a 6% rent increase. For tenants who moved in after that date, the allowed increase ranges from 0.5 to 5%, depending on the exact month they took occupancy. 

As the eviction protections afforded by LA County’s Emergency COVID response end Dec. 31, Pasadena’s Measure H eviction protections will have taken effect.

“This is to be able to help keep people that are from here, that live here, that are born here, that move here to be able to live here. And that’s what we’re all about,” said Brandon Lamar, a renter and chair of Pasadenans Organizing for Progress. “We can not say that we are a diverse community if we don’t give people the resources they need to continue to live here.”

More than 500 people in the city of 136,000 experienced homelessness during the 2022 Pasadena homeless count conducted in January. 

“We work tirelessly to rehouse our houseless neighbors, and we are housing people in record numbers,” said Anne Miskey, chief executive of Union Station Homeless Services. “But the sad fact is that more people fall into homelessness every day than we can house.”

The reasons are not personal choices or addiction, Miskey added.

“The reason people are losing their homes and living on our streets is because of the cost of rent in our community and unfair evictions,” she said.

Measure H, Miskey noted, is a huge tool for her agency’s toolkit.

It took 15,000 signatures to get Measure H on November’s ballot. Volunteers logged 30,000 phone calls and knocked on 40,000 doors to help it pass with the support of dozens of organizations, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Housing is a Human Right, the Affordable Housing Coalition, the League of Women Voters and the Pasadena Unified School District school board. It did not, however, have the support of any Pasadena City Council member other than Jess Rivas.

“Even though the council failed to act, it turns out when you ask Pasadenans directly whether they want to help their neighbors stay housed and a part of our community, they answer with a resounding yes,” Rivas said Monday.