The majority of renters in Los Angeles live under rent control: the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (LARSO) covers 640,000 of the 870,000 renter-occupied housing units in the City of Los Angeles. Since it was established in the 1970s, the RSO has allowed for a floor of 3% rent increases annually and a ceiling tied to increases in the cost of living. Under the emergency order issued during the pandemic, the RSO increases have been frozen, creating a lifeline for millions of people who live as tenants in the City of Los Angeles. That freeze expires one year after the end of the emergency: February 1st, 2024.
Without any action from our City Council, owners of RSO properties would be allowed to raise rents 7-9%. (7% is the baseline allowable rent increase. An additional 1% is allowed for electricity and gas each included in rent, for a total allowable increase of up to 9%.) A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that rent increases of $100/month were associated with a 9% increase in homelessness. A massive rent increase could trigger a disaster for tenants.
In January 2023, City Council passed a motion calling for the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) to report back on the best way to amend this ordinance to keep people in their homes, but they failed to return that report. Accordingly, two of our endorsed council members, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Eunisses Hernandez, introduced a motion to extend the hold on rent increases for six months, until August 1, 2024, while the LAHD finished their report back.
However, in the Housing and Homelessness Committee meeting on Wednesday, November 1st, Bob Blumenfield and Marqueece Harris-Dawson rejected the call for a rent-freeze. They cited legally dubious rationale from the City Attorney – who has been lobbied heavily by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and the landlord lobby – saying that the temporary rent freeze would not be legally defensible in court. We disagree with this ruling, and believe it was politically motivated to prioritize landlords over tenants.
Landlords are bragging about how well they’re lobbying City Council: instead of going forward with the six month rent-freeze proposed by our DSA members, Blumenfield and Harris-Dawson introduced an amendment allowing landlords to raise the rent 4-6% in February, instead of the default 7-9%. They made it clear they would only move the motion out of committee, and to the full City Council, with this amendment in place.
As the chair of the Housing and Homelessness Committee, council-member Nithya Raman was forced to decide between two bad options. If she voted against the Blumenfield/Harris-Dawson amendment, then the full 7-9% increase would be automatically instituted in February. If she voted in favor of the proposed amendment, then the smaller rent increase would be brought to full council for debate and final vote. While we support an extended rent-freeze, we recognize her vote was an attempt to minimize the damage. It also offers the crucial opportunity for additional amendments by the full City Council.
That means it’s not too late to stop the 4-6% rent increase this February. The proposed legislation will return for a full vote THIS WEDNESDAY, November 8th at 10AM. Now’s our chance to tell our representatives to prioritize working class tenants over wealthy landlords and that a massive rent increase in 2024 will put more working Angelenos on the streets. Join us TONIGHT, Monday, November 6th, for a phonebank to contact your neighbors and let them know what’s happening, and how we can fight back.
And if you’re ready to build power as a renter, we’re organizing to empower tenants and push back against the wealthy landords in Los Angeles. Get involved by joining our POWER TO THE TENANTS campaign!