Community rights organizations are seeking to join a federal lawsuit to defend the city of Los Angeles’ COVID-19 emergency eviction protections and rent freeze, it was announced Thursday.

Attorneys for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy filed a motion to intervene Wednesday in the legal action lodged last month by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. The Southland’s largest landlord organization wants to void protections from evictions enacted by the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The potential intervenors say that Los Angeles sits at the juncture of three unfolding crises — a global public health pandemic, an ever-increasing homelessness and affordable housing crisis, and a movement for Black lives that seeks justice for those who are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of the first two crises.

“You can’t be safe at home if you don’t have a home,” said Faizah Malik, a staff attorney with Public Counsel, which filed the motion to intervene alongside two other public-interest law firms. “It is unconscionable and immoral for AAGLA to be seeking the right to evict poor families of color in the middle of a global pandemic where eviction can have deadly consequences.”

Los Angeles enacted an ordinance in March to provide tenants with an affirmative defense to certain unlawful detainer actions. The law prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to COVID-19 and provides tenants with a 12-month repayment period to pay back rent.

AAGLA is also seeking to reverse a local law enacted in May that freezes rent increases for one year for all units protected by the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

“It is crucial for the court to hear from tenants in this case because they are the ones who are facing eviction, homelessness and potentially catastrophic health consequences if the court voids the ordinances,” said Kathryn Eidmann, a senior supervising staff attorney at Public Counsel.

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