L.A. moves closer to ending COVID-19 eviction protections

Some of the country’s longest-running COVID-19 safeguards against evictions were nearing their end on Wednesday, when a Los Angeles City Council committee proposed a measure to lift the rules in late January.

Under the plan, starting February 1, LA landlords will be able to evict tenants for unpaid rent and other reasons, even if tenants are affected by COVID-19. Current city rules have prohibited such evictions since March 2020.

“We need to create long-term protection for our tenants while preserving the economic well-being of our small, large landlords,” said council president Nury Martinez, who also chairs the city’s ad hoc committee on COVID-19 recovery and neighborhood investments. “We must not forget that these measures are designed to ensure that the pandemic does not exacerbate our homelessness crisis.”

The full city council must vote on the plan at an upcoming meeting before it goes into effect.

The committee’s decision followed an hour of public testimony from landlords and tenants, asking council members to listen to their plight. Many landlords identified themselves as small apartment building owners who have struggled under the weight of eviction restrictions for years.

Some said they have not been able to move into their own Units because they can remove non-paying tenants. Others described circumstances in which they are owed tens of thousands of dollars in rent arrears while also paying increased city fees and higher maintenance costs related to inflation.

“The economy has been fully reopened. Vaccines are widely available. The President of the United States said the pandemic was over,” said Fred Sutton, senior vice president at California Apartment Assn., a rental trade group. “The conditions of 2020 are very different from today.”

In contrast, tenants argued that the protective measures had been a lifeline in dealing with the economic and health devastation during the pandemic. Arnulfo Soria, a South LA renter, said he lost his job and contracted COVID-19 four times while sharing an apartment with his four children and five grandchildren.

The eviction protection “is the only thing that has kept us from being homeless,” said Soria, 52. “The removal of the protection is reckless and inhumane.”

Soria, who is organizer of the tenant group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, and others urged the council to add stronger permanent tenant protections before the emergency orders expire.

The committee considered a battery of others Rental regulations Wednesday. A proposal would allow landlords to resume rent increases in rent-controlled housing — about three-quarters of the city’s housing stock — from February 2024. Such additions in these buildings have also not been permitted since March 2020. Committee members also want to consider extending the citywide ban on evictions by tenants without documented lease violations to include more apartments.

Committee members said they were trying to offset the difficulties renters and landlords have faced since the pandemic began, stressing that the city’s emergency response has taken longer than other major cities across the country.

The city’s housing department initially proposed lifting the COVID-19 anti-eviction rules by the end of the year. But Wednesday’s action would cover renters for another month.

“We all know that December is a month of holidays and extra spending,” said councilor Mitch O’Farrell, who announced he is giving an additional $3 million in rental subsidies to renters in his district, which covers Echo Park and the surrounding area would provide areas. “Renters should be given a little more time to get back on their feet.”

https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2022-09-28/l-a-moves-closer-to-ending-covid-19-eviction-protections L.A. moves closer to ending COVID-19 eviction protections

Alley Einstein

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