THE BIGGEST THREAT
Left-wing Professor Peter Dreier and the militant organization Pasadenans Organizing For Progress proclaim that the overwhelming majority of local residents want rent control, based on a poll of 700 people (“Tenants and Homeowners Agree: Pasadena Needs Rent Control,” Aug. 1, 2019).
“Pasadena is ripe for tenant activism,” writes Dreier. “In fact, it has already begun, which isn’t surprising, given the magnitude of the housing crisis.”
Dreier ignores the fact that affordable housing disappeared after decades of massive, poorly controlled immigration, legal or otherwise. California recently passed the 40 million mark and is projected to have 65 million people by the year 2050. How can we build affordable housing for another 25 million people?
In spite of a budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom stated, “Proposition 13 is on the table” (read: chopping block). Worse, Democratic lawmakers, emboldened by their super-majority, produced a laundry list of proposed Assembly and Senate constitutional amendments that would, all or in part, reduce the threshold for parcel taxes from a two-thirds majority to 55 percent.
The biggest threat to hard-pressed property owners is a constitutional amendment (which qualified for the 2020 ballot) that would base property taxes on the assessed market value rather than the purchase price — the catalyst for a tax revolt in 1978.
Before angry tenants flood the streets like torch-wielding villagers in “Frankenstein,” they should remember that they could get slammed by rent increases or wind up in rent-controlled slums if property taxes double or triple.
~ LES HAMMER
Over the last 10 years in my capacity as a preservation consultant I have had three clients who were looking to buy homes to restore and use as art or music studios in historic previously rundown Los Angeles neighborhoods. They had long been priced out of their Pasadena hometown. Off we would go inspecting and analyzing houses and rough estimates of costs to make them safe and habitable at American middle class standards. Reports would be written, I would estimate the completed value, and recommend a range for bidding on the house. My clients would always way overbid and yet always lose those bids. In each case, eventually a real estate agent would sit them down and tell them that if they wanted to live in this neighborhood they would have to be renters, because the agent was representing consortiums of offshore investors who instructed him to make the last bid no matter what. I found them other neighborhoods, and those now too are undergoing this process of foreign investment.
Much but not all of this investment is being undertaken for or by people getting EB5 visas to enter the US. By investing $500,000 into a real estate project investors can jump the immigration line and get on a faster track to citizenship while here. That’s good for them. It’s been tragic for working class and poor people in the Los Angeles area as their traditional neighborhoods have become hotbeds of offshore investment, rising rents, gentrification and displacement. No one will talk about it, but this situation is a major driver of homelessness in our area.
But there is an answer: We can reform the EB5 visa. We could insist that the EB5 visa no longer be a tool of real estate speculation but insist that the visa holder place $750,000 for the first family member and an additional $250,000 for each additional entering family member into a bond pool that will build Section 8 housing, sewerage infrastructure, shield wildland electrical lines and provide other needed infrastructure maintenance. In this way, wealthy immigrants jumping the immigration line will at least be providing money to ameliorate the impacts they are causing.
~ STEVEN S. LAMB
URBAN DESIGN FELLOW
CENTER FOR PROGRESSIVE URBAN POLITICS
Re: “Tenant Revolt: Gentrification leads to eviction for members of the Washington 16,” Aug. 1
Honestly, if you want to live in Pasadena then pay the rent. If you cannot afford or wish not to pay the going rate, there are plenty of affordable nearby cities to live in.
~ Jim Argue
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