A half-dozen Los Angeles City Council members called Wednesday for the temporary suspension of a state law that governs rent prices until the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, passed in 1995, limits California cities from controlling rent increases.

Citing “unprecedented unemployment and increasing debt” as the May 1 due date for rent payments approaches, the council members said the law has prevented California cities from passing broad measures to freeze rents in place, even during an emergency.

“Costa Hawkins has kept cities like Los Angeles from protecting our tenants for too long,” Councilman David Ryu said. “In a pandemic, this is the least we can do.

“No one should face a rent hike during this emergency,” Ryu said. “The governor has shown incredible leadership during this crisis, but it’s time to do more for our tenants. It’s time to suspend Costa Hawkins.”

Ryu was joined by fellow council membes Paul Koretz, Jose Huizar, Bob Blumenfield, Herb Wesson and Mike Bonin in sending a statement to the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom that asks for a temporary suspension of Costa-Hawkins.

The letter states that no Californian should see a rent increase during the pandemic and cites data showing that by May, more than 2.8 million jobs will “disappear” from Southern California.

They also said that last year, 721,000 households in Los Angeles County were spending more than half of their income on rent.

“This crisis demands action, and Costa Hawkins is a roadblock to action,” Bonin said. “We need every tool possible to help protect tenants and prevent homelessness, and we urge the legislature to give us that tool.”

The City Council voted last Thursday to have the City Attorney’s Office draft an ordinance that would halt rent increases for units protected by the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance for 360 days.

Initially, motions were filed to put a temporary stop to rent increases on all residential rental units, not just the ones protected by the stabilization ordinance. However, Deputy City Attorney David Michaelson said that may not be legal under Costa-Hawkins.

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