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LA City Council committee approves amended motion to increase rent

Apartments in Westwood Village are pictured. The Los Angeles City Council’s housing and homelessness committee approved an amended motion to lower rent increases to 4%. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Sharla Steinman

Nov. 2, 2023 11:19 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 3 at 12:30 p.m.

The Los Angeles City Council’s housing and homelessness committee passed an amended motion Wednesday to lower rent increases from 7% to 4%.

The original motion, presented by Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez and seconded by Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, suggested a six-month extension of a pandemic-era ban on rent increases. It called for a continued pause on rent increases for units covered by the 1979 Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which limits the allowable rent increase for units built on or before Oct. 1, 1978. Under the ordinance, rent increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index – a measure of inflation – and are capped at 8%.

Instead, the committee passed an amended motion for lower rent increases, rather than a complete ban on increases. If passed by the entire city council, the amended motion would go into effect in February.

In the original motion, Soto-Martinez said delaying the return of annual increases in the city’s rent-controlled apartments would give councilmembers more time to decide how to craft rent control limits.

Ysabel Jurado, a candidate for District 14’s councilmember, advocated to the committee during public comment for a six-month extension. She said as an eviction defense attorney and housing rights activist throughout the pandemic, she has seen senior tenants being evicted with no safety net.

“We need to extend this rent freeze to protect the wholesale displacement of communities, of neighbors, and the communities that I love and work for,” Jurado said during public comment.

[Related: Double Bruin Ysabel Jurado runs for LA City Council ‘to represent my community’]

During the committee meeting, the original motion was amended by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. Blumenfield’s amendment called for lowering allowable rent increases from 7% to 4% and would allow for an additional 1% increase for landlords who provide gas and another 1% for those who provide electricity.

“(The amendment) would not allow for a rent freeze because legally, we can’t do that, folks, and the Supreme Court has said that, and our COVID power is over,” Blumenfield said during the meeting. “It would not allow for the jump to 7%. … I think it’s a reasonable way to go on this.”

Daniel Yukelson, chief executive officer and executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater LA, said that although the 4% increase will help landlords, it is still not enough compared to the rising costs of maintenance and insurance. He said he thinks there should have been small rental increases throughout the pandemic.

“There should have been some increase allowed this entire time,” Yukelson said. “It (rental housing) was the only business that I could think of that had their prices frozen.”

Blumenfield’s proposal passed by a 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Nithya Raman and Marqueece Harris-Dawson joining him. Councilmembers John Lee and Monica Rodriguez voted against lowering the rent increase caps.

LA has had a ban on rent-controlled housing for the past 3.5 years. If the motion fails in the city council, the ban will end Jan. 31, and the allowable rent increase from Feb. 1 through June 30 will be 7%, with an additional 2% for landlords who provide gas and electricity.

[Related: LA City Council to expand tenant protections with expected start in February]

In the motion, Soto-Martinez wrote that a 7% rent increase would lead to the displacement of renters. He added that he believes Angelenos would be driven out of the county and into homelessness.

State law requires landlords to provide a 30-day written notice for rent increases of less than 10%. For rental increases above 10% where the tenant cannot afford the unit any longer, the landlord must provide relocation assistance.

Lee said if rent increases continue to be paused, investors will no longer want to build housing in a city that needs more homes.

“People don’t want to build here anymore when the city council can just walk away from there and decide … no one has to pay more rent,” he said. “You can’t do that. We have to build housing in the city.”

Raman said the decision is challenging because there is pressure on renters to afford the cost of housing in an increasingly expensive city. She added that LA is seeing rising homelessness despite investing hundreds of millions of dollars toward addressing the crisis.

“We are in a very precarious position here in the city of Los Angeles,” Raman said. “I think this council really has to wrangle with that precarity on every angle in order for us to be able to move forward and make decisions.”

The motion will advance to the city council for a final vote.

“The rental housing market will be completely broken in the city of Los Angeles,” Yukelson said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next five years or 10 years, but sometime after that, where these regulations are going, it’s literally going to crush people in the rental housing business.”

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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