The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday approved just under $3 million for a program to help low-income earners whose rent has been increased significantly in advance of a state law that will cap rent increases at the beginning of the new year.
City Councilwoman Nury Martinez created the proposal for the program, which she said is especially important during the holiday months to keep people in their homes.
“This is an emergency (for) good people who are doing the best they can to make ends meet and stay in their apartments,” Martinez said. “This program will go into effect immediately and make sure these people stay in their homes.”
Funds to cover the difference of rent increases will be available to tenants and families at or below 80% of area median income and where an eviction lawsuit for non-payment of rent has not yet been adjudicated.
The money will come from a renters’ legal fund that the city established to provide tenants with legal representation when facing eviction.
Renters in California are currently in a bit of a gray area until the beginning of the new year. The City Council last week voted to ban evictions in which the tenant is not at fault until Jan. 1, when the provisions of a state law, AB 1482, will go into effect.
According to the upcoming law, rents would be rolled back to no more than what was charged on March 15, 2019, plus 5% (or about 9% in Los Angeles) above the consumer price index.
The relief program will provide funds for eligible renters for up to three months to cover rental increases that are above 9% before the state law kicks in, but that percentage could be lowered, officials with Martinez’s office said.
“In the current elevated rental market, there is a shockingly high percentage of Los Angeles residents who are barely hanging on,” City Councilman Paul Koretz said. “We already have far too many homeless Angelenos on our streets.”
Martinez said the city is not legally able to freeze rent increases until Jan. 1, but she said this money should keep people from being evicted.
Council members said they’ve heard complaints coming from tenants that their rents are being raised significantly prior to the new law, as some landlords are bracing for the changes.
The city’s Housing and Community Investment Department said it estimates for every $1 million in the fund, about 250 to 400 families could be assisted, but the actual number will depend upon on how much people’s rent is increased.
“While this is a very, very timely and important proposal … it, at the end of the day, only maintains the status quo until Dec. 31, and we must go forward as a council to do all that we can to build (affordable) housing in this city,” Councilman Gilbert Cedillo said.
The last day for people to apply for the subsidy for rent is Dec. 31.
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