Thursday, January 20, 2022

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With a City Council Chamber packed on one side with high-priced landlord and developer lobbyists and representatives in expensive tailor-made suits and with the other side filled with tenants and tenant advocates from Call to Action, an alliance of L.A.'s major tenants' rights organizations including CES, many in brightly colored t-shirts proudly displaying their organization's name, the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a long overdue law to close a rent control loophole.

The loophole enabled developers and landlords to evict tenants and destroy affordable housing.

State law guarantees landlords the right to go out of the rental business. When doing so a landlord signs a legal declaration attesting to this fact. If the landlord then demolishes the apartment building and constructs new rental housing they've made a fraudulent claim.

This new law, passed by the City Council, helps to ensure these landlords and developers are not rewarded, and that tenants and affordable housing are protected.

The ordinance would require a landlord/developer who demolished a rent controlled building and constructs new rental units on the site to be subject to the following:

1) All the units in the new building would be covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). The new law will allow building owners to set the initial rents at market rates, but future increases would be subject to the city's rent control law, which limits how much rents can be raised each year and tenants will have just cause eviction protections.

2) The owner would have the alternative option to replace an equal number of housing units that were demolished, not to exceed 20% of the total number of newly constructed rental units, that would be affordable to households with an income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) established by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which shall remain affordable for at least 30 years. The additional units would then be exempted from rent control.

At the City Council hearing the previous week, L.A. Housing Department General Manager Mercedes Marquez brilliantly deflected questions from Council Member Bernard Parks, a vocal rent control opponent, stating that this law was needed, especially in light of Forbes Magazine recently reporting that Los Angeles was the city with the nation's least affordable housing and that only 2% of L.A.'s residents can now afford to buy a home indicating a crisis that is now not only limited to low income people, but now severely affects middle class Angelenos.

Dismissing charges that this law would stop the development of needed new rental housing, Marquez responded that L.A. ranks only behind Dallas, nationally, in the construction of new rental housing.

Enormous thanks should be given to Council Members Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes, who, both, provided effective leadership on this issue. In addition, thanks goes out to Council Members Wendy Greuel, Bill Rosendahl and Janice Hahn for providing strong vocal support.

Nevertheless, much more City action is needed to truly preserve the city's scarce existing affordable housing stock, as well as to produce additional housing to meet L.A.'s ever increasing need. Thus, the fight continues................... 

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