Los Angeles City Council may limit rent hikes on rent-controlled units – Daily News
Los Angeles City Councilman Hugo Soto Martinez listens to public comment during a meeting at City Hall on January 10, 2023. (Photo by Kyosung Jung/Contributing Photographer)
LOS ANGELES — The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal aimed at limiting expected rent increases for properties subject to the city’s rent control law.
The proposal was previously postponed during last week’s council meeting by Councilman Hugo Soto Martinez, who wanted more time for his colleagues to consider the idea. The proposal was prompted by the expected Jan. 31, 2024, date of the pandemic-era rent freeze, which was imposed on rent-stabilized units.
The city’s rent stabilization ordinance was adopted in 1979 and applies to rental housing built before 1978. It limits the increases allowed for rent-controlled units, and links rent increases to the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation.
On Nov. 1, the council’s five-member Housing and Homeless Committee voted 3-2 to approve a revised proposal aimed at limiting rent hikes after the rent freeze ends. Council members Monica Rodriguez and John Lee voted against it.
Councilman Bob Blumenfeld amended a motion put forth by Soto-Martinez on Oct. 25 that sought to extend the moratorium on rent-controlled units. Instead of extending the rent freeze, Blumenfeld’s amendment required the city attorney, with the assistance of the Department of Housing, to draft an ordinance temporarily setting rent increases for units subject to rent control from February 1 to June 30, 2024.
What will be presented to the council Tuesday will be a compromise of sorts — a plan to allow rent increases of up to 4%, or up to 6% if landlords cover gas and electricity costs, for rent-stabilized units.
Rent increases will be calculated using the formula outlined in the city’s rent control ordinance, using the Consumer Price Index from October 2022 to September 2023 instead of October 2021 to September 2022.
According to Blumenfeld, using the latest Consumer Price Index, the formula would allow for a 4% rent increase — instead of what would have been a 7% increase.
“So, a rent freeze will not be allowed because we legally cannot do that, and the Supreme Court has said our COVID-related powers have expired,” Blumenfeld said. “But that will not allow us to jump to 7%, which depends on the data.”
The revised proposal would also task the Department of Housing with consulting with citizens’ oversight committee United to House LA to develop programs that help landlords and renters, as well as small housing providers, maintain and maintain RSO units.
The goal of Soto-Martinez’s proposal to extend the rent freeze was to provide more time so a study reviewing the city code’s formula for determining rent increases could be completed, and to help determine what adjustments to the formula might be needed.
Blumenfeld said the study will not be completed in time to make adjustments before the rent freeze ends.
Many renters and landlords have expressed support for extending or ending the rent freeze.
Casper Martin spoke on behalf of his parents, who own a six-unit, rent-controlled apartment in the Pico Robertson area, previously telling the Housing and Homeless Commission that his parents love being landlords. While his parents rent housing units at below market rate, they cannot continue to do so without being able to raise the rent at least a little.
Other landlords who spoke against extending the rent freeze also cited financial concerns.
Tenants like Amelia Kreski, a 10th District resident and member of the Californians Alliance for Community Empowerment, urged the council to extend the freeze or limit any rent increases.
Kreski (70 years old) said that she lives on her husband’s pension and it will not be enough to cover the rent increase. She said many Angelenos like her can’t afford higher rents.
Housing advocates and renters have stressed that any increase in rents could lead to higher rates of homelessness.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week took similar action, extending the maximum rent increases allowed for rent-controlled apartments in unincorporated areas, but with a slight increase. The board last year imposed a 3% cap on rent increases, but that cap was set to expire at the end of the year. The board voted to extend the cap until June 30, 2024, but agreed to increase the allowable rent increase to 4%.