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LA Curbed

Friday September 12, 2014

10 Quotes To Explain The Good and Bad of LA Rent Control

By Adrian Glick Kudler

Undated photo of women protesting for a rent control law at City Hall (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

Los Angeles's Rent Stabilization Ordinance, aka rent control, covers 880,581 apartments in the city of Los Angeles, and fewer all the time as landlords find new ways to push out rent-controlled tenants. Under the law, landlords can only raise rents by 3 percent a year on apartments built before October 1, 1978 (it also makes it more difficult to evict tenants), and it's incredibly important in a city where the majority of residents are renters (the rate is highest in the US at 52 percent). Opponents (mostly landlords) claim rent control just drives rents up on market-rate units; supporters say the laws might be imperfect, but they genuinely help people. KPCC took a long look at the issue today and we've pulled out some of the most telling quotes, which cover the range of problems that rent control both faces and addresses:

Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, on the 1970s apartment market that inspired rent control laws: "It was a crisis situation … Speculators had found L.A., buying apartment buildings and turning them over. People were receiving three, four, and five rent increases per year."

Gross: "It levels the playing field for tenants … It says you can't evict somebody just because you don't like them."

Paul Habibi, UCLA finance and real estate teacher who owns "thousands of apartments, just under half of which are rent-controlled," on making improvements to rent-controlled units: "For the most part, market forces dictate that those apartments that are market-rate are going to get investment dollars."

Wendell Jones, who lives in a rent-controlled unit in West Hollywood: "People like me who have things to share with the community, we'll all be driven out if rent control goes … None of us will be here."

Habibi on lack of income restrictions in the current laws: "You could have an attorney making a quarter of a million dollars living in a rent stabilized property … Meanwhile, someone who makes only a fraction of that is living in a market rate building."

Undated photo of landlords marching on retail clerks union local headquarters to protest a "delay in decontrolling rents." (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

Santa Monica Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich on California's Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which outlawed rent control on units built after 1995: "We can't control our rent because of the Costa-Hawkins decision … That really is the pressure on our housing market."

Gross on California's Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict tenants if they plan to go condo or otherwise repurpose the property: "We've lost upwards of anywhere from thirteen to sixteen thousand units through landlords going out of the rental market to demolish their buildings to build new luxury condos … Housing will be lost and never replaced."

Daniel Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable, on how it works back east: "New York puts a ceiling, unlike L.A. Some units in New York are at remarkably affordable prices. That's rare in L.A."

The Economic Roundtable's 2008 report on LA rent control: "It is a partial answer because the RSO does not result in affordable rents for most tenants; rather it slows the rate of rent increases for tenants who remain in place during periods of rapid housing inflation."

And that report again with the last word: "The purpose of the RSO is to protect tenants from excessive rent increases, while allowing owners a reasonable return on their investments … This balance is difficult to achieve in a rental market with both long-term decline in renter incomes and inflation in housing prices."

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