After a lengthy public debate, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, March 21 voted not to support a resolution that would’ve extended certain residential tenant protections for one year throughout the county.
In a 2-2 vote with one abstention, a measure that prohibits landlords from evicting a tenant without just cause and one that would protect tenants from eviction who have added extra occupants and/or pets during the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic failed to pass.
Also failing was a measure affecting only landlords in unincorporated areas that would have capped rent increases by 3%, or the year-over-year change in the local Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. It also would have prevented the imposition of pass-throughs or other fees.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Lindsey Horvath voted in favor, while Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger voted against the measures. Supervisor Holly Mitchell abstained.
Hahn said extended protections for renters was fine a year ago, but with unemployment low and the COVID-19 pandemic abated, this was not the right time to impose more emergency regulations on the 88 cities in Los Angeles County, nor to place restrictions on landlords in unincorporated areas.
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“At this point, I feel like for me, it feels like an overreach now to impose these on the incorporated cities,” Hahn said. Instead, she said the county would help any city craft a local ordinance.
Many tenants, who said they are being evicted or face higher rents, joined renter rights groups in speaking in favor of the failed resolution.
Some were concerned that an eviction wave would start after March 31, when the county ends the COVID-19 emergency.
“Your tenant community needs your support right now,” said Diana Prado, executive director of the Housing Equity & Advocacy Resource Team, better known as HEART LA.
The impetus behind the Board resolution was to prevent more people from falling into homelessness. The authority for these protections comes from the county’s emergency declaration on homelessness.
“We are in a declared state of emergency on homelessness. The most important thing we can do to stop the tide of homelessness is to help those people to afford the homes they are in,” said Horvath, a co-author of the failed resolution.
However, the board heard from more than 20 speakers in opposition, including many so-called “mom and pop” landlords, as well as representatives of apartment owner trade groups. Several speakers said the resolution would have placed undue burdens on landlords, who are facing rising costs from utility rate hikes and other expenses.
“Let’s deal with the cause of the problem and not put this on the backs of landlords,” said Jesse Torres during the public comment period.
Fred Sutton, vice president of public affairs for The California Apartment Association, said the resolution was confusing and would have taken away cities’ local control. “Cities can make these decisions on their own,” he told the Board.
Matt Buck, also from the California Apartment Association, said the state has already ended the COVID-19 emergency. “The rhetoric about a wave of evictions have failed to materialize,” he said.
Statistics from 2019 showed that 55% of all renters in the county, about 989,000 households, spent more than 30% of their income on rent. Also, more than half of these households were “severely cost-burdened” and spent more than half of their income on rent.
Of the two-thirds of unsheltered adults who were experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2020, 50% said it was due to economic hardship, according to the county resolution.
Across California nearly 600,000 people owe a total of $2.1 billion in back rent, researchers say. In Los Angeles city and county, nearly 200,000 people owe more than half a billion dollars in unpaid rent.
A watered-down version that was approved by the Board asks the county Director of Consumer and Business Affairs and the Chief Executive Officer to be available to work with cities in crafting ordinances. The Consumer Affairs office will report back on the issue in about a month.
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