The City-sponsored “Economic Study of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and the Los Angeles Housing Market” (RSO Study) was released in June 2009 by the Economic Roundtable. This study includes recommendations relative to the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), including calling for the elimination of the 3% “floor” on rental increases allowed by the RSO-based on the Consumer Price Index and elimination of the additional 1% rent increase allowed for each utility (gas or electricity) where it’s included in the rent. The study showed that the utility increases allowed in the RSO bears no relationship to the actual cost to landlords, thus providing landlords with a significant windfall at tenants’ expense. Even in poor economic climates where the CPI does not increase, rents will continue to increase 3%. The current CPI rate for 2010 is -.62% and yet rents across the city still increase at 3%.
On May 5, 2010, in a 3-1 vote in our favor, we, the L.A. Human Right to Housing Collective, were able to convince the Community & Economic Development Committee that a moratorium on this automatic rent increase is warranted. On May 21, 2010 the moratorium went before Council. City Council made tenants wait over five hours before declining to vote on a moratorium against rent increases. Instead, Council President Eric Garcetti introduced a motion to send the issue back to committee. The motion passed 10-5, essentially ensuring rents will go up for most tenants on July 1st. The only votes in favor of tenant rights were Councilmembers Alarcon, Hahn, Huizar, Krekorian and Wesson.
When tenants voiced their anger, frustration and disappointment by chanting loudly in Council Chambers, Acting President Dennis Zine ordered Los Angeles Police Department to remove tenants from council. About 30 LAPD officers began roughly forcing tenants out of Council chambers. One Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) member was forced to the ground against a wall by several officers, his tee shirt ripped almost in two, and another was hog tied after being roughly pulled to the ground by his neck. Another disabled female LA CAN member was arrested solely for shouting at Council that this was all Council’s fault. Since May 21st, all charges against the three arrested residents have been dropped.
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In the aftermath of May 21st, the L.A. Human Right to Housing Collective has been holding Councilmembers accountable for their irresponsible abandonment of tenants. On May 31, 2010, the Collective returned to City Hall to show solidarity and to denounce the actions on the 21st of May. The solidarity statement is available here.
On June 17, 2010 the Collective convened on the corner of Echo Park and Silverlake Boulevard and made a house call to Council President Eric Garcetti. Tenants chanted and pounded Korean and African drums as they climbed the hill to Garcetti's house.
On the way up to Garcetti's house, renters informed the Council President's neighbors (many of whom live in rent stabilized units) about the issues and the way that Garcetti turned his back on tenants.
LAPD officers met tenants at the street corner and more officers showed up as the march moved toward Garcetti's house but the action proceeded peacefully and legal observers were able to reiterate the right to exercise 1st amendment rights.
On July 21st, two months after the police were allowed to attack tenants in City Council chambers, Right to Housing Collective members confronted Councilmember Bill Rosendahl before and after a community accountability session held in the Mar Vista Gardens public housing projects. The community accountability session was held by Collective member organization POWER (People Organizing for Westside Renewal) to address the lack of leadership on specific issues affecting the Mar Vista/Venice community and citywide issues such as rent stabilization reform.
The work of Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective does not stop with the rent freeze. Our work will not stop until there is permanent, comprehensive and equitable reform to the city's rent stabilization ordinance. The Los Angeles Housing Preservation Alliance members represent 5 key areas of the City: Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles, South LA, Downtown, Westlake/Mid City, and Venice/West LA. Between us, we represent more than 1,000 active tenant members and an additional 125,000 tenants living in rent-stabilized, public and Section 8 housing in our communities.
A. Alliance members recommend the following immediate changes and reforms to the LA Rent Stabilization Ordinance (LARSO) as a result of the current City Council review and evaluation process. Our recommendations are also supported by other housing rights groups, and many of them are also supported by the Economic Roundtable study completed for the City Council and the LA Housing Department.
1. Eliminate the current 3% rent minimum increase.
a. The recently released CPI for Los Angeles is -0.4%, which reflects this time of severe economic crisis.
b. Yet, under the current law, rents can still increase by 3% starting in July 2010.
c. By eliminating the unfair minimum rent increase, there is the opportunity to freeze all rent increases during this time of economic crisis.
2. Eliminate the additional 2% rent increase when the landlords pays gas and electricity.
a. The Economic Roundtable study clearly shows that the 2% increase does not reflect actual costs and is a windfall for landlords.
b. This seemingly small increase adds up over time and impacts very low-income tenants the most severely.
3. Contract with organizations to go door to door to educate tenants on their rights.
a. The Economic Roundtable study showed that about 50% of low-income tenants and 60% of limited English speakers were not aware of their rights under LARSO.
4. Ensure that all relevant City housing officials, especially LAHD code enforcement inspectors, speak the same language as the tenants they are serving.
B. Alliance members also recommend additional urgent changes and reforms that are related to LA Rent Stabilization Ordinance reform and would increase the health and stability of housing for low-income tenants.
1. Pass a City Council resolution and actively work to change State legislation to allow the extension of LARSO to all units built before 1995.
2. Create a program and funding for community inspectors’ team that trains residents on the inspection process and also monitors the City’s inspectors for quality control (similar to the current REAP contractor program, but for the SCEP program).
3. Define and enforce a high standard for quality repairs, so as to end the “Mickey Mouse” repairs that have led to detrimental health and safety impacts on tenants.
4. Identify roaches, rats, and bedbugs as LAHD code enforcement issues instead of just relying on the January 11, 2010 County’s Department of Public Health for enforcement.
5. Develop a new policy defining and prohibiting tenant harassment in the City of Los Angeles.