A Los Angeles City Council committee has declined to extend a freeze on rent increases and opened the door to an uptick of nearly 4 percent.
The policy covers all rent-stabilized units in the city, or about 75 percent of the city’s rental stock.
The council’s Housing & Homelessness Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Nithya Raman, heard public comment on Wednesday on a potential extension of a pandemic-related rent freeze that has blocked landlords from increasing rents on rent-stabilized units since March 2020. At the hearing, Councilman Bob Blumenfield proposed an amendment to the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance that would allow rent increases starting in February, with the increases based on the Consumer Price Index from October 2022 through September of this year. As of September, the CPI rose 3.7 percent over the last 12 months.
Three out of five present council members on the committee — Marqueeze Harris-Dawson, Blumenfield and Raman — voted to move Blumenfield’s proposal forward. The proposal will now go to the entire City Council for a vote.
Alternatively, the committee discussed allowing rents to increase based on the CPI for the two-year pandemic, which would have expanded monthly payments by 7 percent. The amendment “would not allow for the jump to 7 percent,” Blumenfield said at the meeting.
“I agree with all sides — the rent is too damn high, it’s very hard to live in this city, and at the same time, when you are a property owner, you need to have a basic return on your investment,” he said, adding this was an attempt at a compromise that “no one will like.”
Councilman Hugo Soto-Martínez had proposed to extend a total freeze on rent increases by an additional six months to July 31, 2024, according to city documents.
In his proposal, Soto-Martínez said the extension would give the Los Angeles Housing Department more time to complete a study on a permanent formula for allowable rent increases for rent-stabilized units going forward.
At the committee, public speakers flip-flopped between landlords and tenants with both expressing financial pain.
The landlords and property managers made themselves known in the audience, holding up yellow flyers with “No Freeze” and “We House LA” printed in black ink. And many stood up to comment on the proposal, urging council members not to extend the rent freeze.
“There is no justification to continue the freeze at this time,” Moses Kagan, a landlord and founder of Adaptive Realty, said in front of the group.
Yesterday, LA landlords packed the Housing Committee to argue against continuing the unjust RSO rent freeze in effect since March ’20.
Looks like we won a small victory: Committee recommended a 4% increase to the full council.
Proud to have contributed & will keep fighting.
— Moses Kagan (@moseskagan) November 2, 2023
Speakers advocating against extending the rent freeze were frequently applauded. But tenants still shared their own financial struggles and reasons to keep rent caps in place.
Ysabel Jurado, a tenants rights and eviction attorney currently running for City Council for District 14, spoke of senior citizens who faced eviction, an example of why council members should extend the rent freeze.
Amy, a tenant in South Central L.A. who did not disclose her last name, said her mother had passed this year, and any increase in rent would severely hurt her financial situation.
After comments from the public, council members took to the microphone to express skepticism around the proposed extension, before voting on the proposal.
“As someone who experienced property takeovers as a result of the recession, people were evicted as a result of banks becoming landlords,” Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who represents the northeast San Fernando Valley, said, adding she could not support the proposal.
“The idea that we would punt the obligation of affordable housing on the backs of private property owners is really a challenge that no one is going to win,” she said.