Rent gouging is putting families at risk and reshaping our communities.
Imagine waking up one day and finding that your rent is going to double. What would you do? Could you afford twice as much for rent with only 1 month to plan? For many families this nightmare is a reality.
Many buildings in Los Angeles are protected from this by our Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). Passed in 1978, the RSO caps yearly rent increases to about 3% a year and protects renters from no-cause evictions. These protections allowed many tenants to stay in their homes despite housing prices rising around them. But in 1996 the California legislature passed a law called Costa-Hawkins.
Costa-Hawkins was pushed through the Assembly and Senate by developers, and even then it barely won a majority. Costa-Hawkins stopped any city in California from passing new rent control laws. It also froze any existing rent control laws at the date it was first passed. That means that only apartment buildings built before 1978 in Los Angeles are protected. To make things even harder on working families, Costa-Hawkins outlawed rent control on any single family homes.
For 22 years this law went unchallenged. That is, until Proposition 10 was put on the ballot to repeal Costa-Hawkins. If passed it would have allowed cities to pass new renter protections and returned local control to the people most effected. Unfortunately, it did not win. Los Angeles and San Francisco both voted in favor of Prop 10, because tenants knew how much it would help.
Since then we have seen landlords across the city using massive rent increases to push out tenants they don’t want. There’s a land rush in LA and landlords want to clear out working families to make way for wealthier tenants.
In 2018 the Burlington tenants went on the largest rent strike in LA history. The strike started when they were suddenly hit with increases that nearly doubled their rent. Working families and seniors on fixed incomes were faced with a sudden crisis. Fight the landlords to save their homes or try to find a new place to live immediately.
With the help of the Los Angeles Tenants Union and the Eviction Defense Network they formed Burlington Unidos. Even by pulling together as a community they weren’t able to save every home. Each unit had to go through a separate eviction proceeding, most of the tenants prevailed but some did not. After 6 months on rent strike the landlords canceled the rent increases and agreed to negotiate.
This rent increase was defeated, but not without cost. Months of worry and thousands of dollars were spent to fight this greed.
In Chinatown, families at the Hillside Villa apartments are looking at the end of their affordable housing covenant. These covenants last for 30 years, guaranteeing affordable rents and protections. In exchange for keeping rents low, the landlord is offered tax incentives. But even these incentives haven’t kept the landlord honest.
While the building continues to degrade, wealthier renters have been moved in at market rate, but the tax incentives are still claimed. Some of these families were displaced from downtown to make way for the Staples Center. Having survived one forced eviction, they are fearful of losing another home.
Pleas to the city for protection have gone unheeded, but by working with the Los Angeles Tenants Union they have won some legal victories. These wins are tenuous, the landlord doesn’t have to sign a new housing covenant. But these wins have only come through organizing and building community.
It’s amazing that these tenants and organizers have had the courage to organize. That when faced with displacement they fought for their homes and won. But it shouldn’t be this way.
California can stop this from ever happening again if the Assembly and Senate pass AB 1482. Authored by Assemblyman David, AB 1482 steps in where Proposition 10 couldn’t. It caps yearly rent increases to 5% plus the increase in cost of living. In most cases that would mean inflation.
This would mean that tenants could still see increases as high as 8%, based on current inflation. But that is far more manageable than 50% or 100% increases. Combined with other bills before the state legislature this year there is hope for tenants. Now we need to hold our Assembly Members and State Senators accountable.
You can take action now!
Call your representatives, tell them you support tenants, and that they must vote Yes on AB 1482.
Tenants work hard to pay the rent, but landlord greed threatens their homes. We have to stand with tenants and make housing a human right.