L.A. Rent Freeze on the Horizon?

LA Rent FreezeIf rental habits remain status quo, this July roughly 600,000 Los Angeles rent-controlled tenants will face a 3% rent increase, with some facing as much as a 5% hike.

In these tough economic times, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon is proposing a one year halt to the increase saying families are already struggling.

Not so surprisingly, tenants' groups support the freeze, landlord groups are opposed. Rented Spaces takes a look at both sides...

Landlords can raise the rent without regard to the state of the economy, which is why rent-control apartments are an important find to an apartment dweller - rent-controlled apartments are limited as to how much rent can be increased each year.

In good economic times, the 3% increase, while not ideal, is within reason since a household income normally grows at that rate or better. And there's a certain understanding that rents must increase to meet a landlord's rising costs. However, since the 3% increase is pegged to inflation and there's no doubt that so many are suffering during the financial crisis, this increase is seen as unfair by many tenant groups and Councilman Alarcon.

Cities like West Hollywood, San Francisco, Berkley and Oakland have their rate of increase tied to the inflation rate. When that doesn't go up, neither do the rents. Not so in L.A.

Currently, Mayor Villaraigosa's has proposed a whopping increase of 5% for renters who do not pay water and electric bills separately from their rent. Since many of his colleagues speak out against this particular idea, Alarcon is working to get them to support a rent freeze across the board. The reasoning for both are the same: People are struggling and shouldn't have to pay more.

Larry Gross of the Coalition of Economic Survival thinks rent hikes should be in line with inflation, "Without this moratorium injustice will continue to prevail."

The California Apartment Association of Los Angeles (CAA-LA) thinks this freeze is wrong. President of CAA-LA's Board of Directors, Michael Farahnik, foresees job losses and questions the future of rent control properties in Los Angeles. He says all of this hangs in the balance of this City Council decision - "A rent freeze will show investors that RSO properties are no longer a reasonable and sound investment, putting the City's affordable housing stock at risk."

As Alarcon pointed out at a press conference in April, "Rent control was created to protect families. When we are in an economic recession, families that are struggling to make ends meet can still face rent increases."

LA tenants can find out more by contacting their local City Council Member or by attending the meeting on May 5 at Los Angeles City Hall.
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