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California

L.A. County supervisors vote to extend rent increase cap through 2019

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Maria Leon, left, from East Los Angeles joins crowd on steps of County Hall of Administration Tuesday to urge Supervisors to extend a cap rent increases through 2019.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday extended rent-control and eviction protections in the unincorporated areas until next year, after a lengthy hearing with dueling input from affordable housing advocates and the real estate industry.

By a 4-1 vote, the supervisors continued a temporary cap on rent increases to 3% annually until the end of the year and expanded protections requiring landlords to show “just cause” before evictions.

The extension gives county officials more time to craft a permanent ordinance regulating rents in the areas under the jurisdiction of the county government, a patchwork of neighborhoods home to 1 million residents, including hundreds of thousands of renters who would be affected by the expanded rules.

“Many people in Los Angeles County are having difficulties just accessing housing,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who backed the creation of the ordinance. “One of the reasons has been the rapidly escalating rents, which in many, many of our areas have no stabilization ordinances, no limitations at all.”

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Before the vote, a large group of housing advocates held a rally outside the Hall of Administration, and dozens spoke to the board about their experiences as renters and on behalf of the ordinance.

Numerous critics representing realtors and property owners spoke against the changes, saying the area’s rising housing costs can be explained by scarcity, not predatory landlords or owners.

“We need to focus on the development of new homes at all income levels and not price-control policies that remove the incentive to build more housing and cause landlords to neglect maintenance and repair,” said Armando Flores, legislative affairs director for the Valley Industry & Commerce Assn., which opposes the ordinance.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the measure, as she had when the board first considered it last fall, echoing the concerns of the real estate industry.

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“I really do believe that competition is going to solve the problem. Rent control is exacerbating the situation,” she said.

The board’s vote comes as other area cities, including Glendale, Long Beach and Inglewood, have recently enacted their own renter protection measures.

In addition to extending the renter protections, the board also asked county agencies to craft an ordinance that would establish a rent review board designed to oversee current and future measures related to rent stabilization, mobile home regulation and tenant protections.

The vote included instructions to county public works and planning officials to assess conditions of the rental stock in the unincorporated areas, focusing on a possible code enforcement program to improve rental housing conditions.

In addition, the board expressed a desire to work with community groups and county departments to notify renters and property owners about the policy changes on social media and other methods.

Housing advocates applauded the county’s decision to build its own regulatory infrastructure before enacting a permanent ordinance, perhaps this fall.

“The tenants we aim to protect should not suffer because we want a deliberative process as we consider permanent rent protections,” said Jessie Kornberg, President & CEO of Bet Tzedek, a public-interest law firm.

Kornberg also praised the extension of the eviction protections to most rental units in the county.

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“This ‘just cause’ clarification is immensely important to the vast majority of tenants that you serve,” she said.


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