City council returns to review rent control urgency ordinance

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A need for the ordinance was decided upon after much debate at the June 24 City Council meeting

 

In response to the skyrocketing rent prices in the city, the Culver City City Council is meeting on Aug. 12 to discuss planned rent control after an urgency ordinance was called for at the June 24 City Council meeting. Staff was directed to use the L.A. County Temporary Rent Stabilization Ordinance as a model, including a rent cap enacted retroactively to June 24 or beyond if data supports the need for it.

The decision to enact an urgency ordinance on the matter of rent freeze was presented at the June 24 meeting to a split crowd. Over 100 people spoke, many in favor of the rent freeze, and plenty against it. Those who were in favor of rent freeze mainly felt that many landlords would raise rents for the sole reason of making a greater profit. With the development of Culver City and the adjacent Playa Vista as technological hubs, the demand to live in the city has risen dramatically in recent years, and the rent in the city has risen to an amount difficult for many current tenants to keep up with.

Obviously, this forces them out of their homes, some of which people have lived in their whole lives. The group Protect Culver City Renters, who lead the charge in the rent freeze argument, argued that in comparison to most cities around Los Angeles County, Culver City has very little protections for renters against this. On top of the 3% rent freeze modeled after LA County’s rent freeze, they asked for a provision that provided financial support to those forced out of their rentals due to these types of increases.

Also among those in favor were representatives from outside the city who wanted to insert
their input. However, even with these outside supporters, there was a sizable group who spoke against the rent freeze. Many of these people were “mom-and-pop” landlords. Most professed that they have always tried to be fair because of their good relationships with tenants. They talked about how they don’t give many rent increases, only doing so when they need to make repairs. In many cases, they believe that the rent freeze will make it more difficult to make these refurbishments and keep the homes at the levels of habitability and cleanliness that they do now.

For many issues, the views of each of the groups were two sides of the same coin. Those
advocating for the freeze argued that controlling rents will help maintain the economic
diversity in the city, while those against argue that the freeze would make it more economically beneficial for many mom and pop landlords to sell, paving the way for corporate landlords and gentrification.

Even the “just cause” provision, that prevents tenants from being evicted unless there is just cause such as failure to pay rent or a lease violation didn’t come without opposition. While it seems fair on paper, many landlords provided anecdotes of mentally unstable, excessively loud, or similarly disruptive or disturbing tenants who would be entirely protected under a “just cause” provision.

Another point brought up was the idea of supply and demand, and the fact that many of the issues that the rent freeze is trying to accomplish would be more effectively solved by
improving and expanding Section 8 housing, citing places like Salt Lake City. But even that Salt Lake City has its problems, with a February story in The Salt Lake Tribune documenting the struggles of a homeless couple with Section 8 housing vouchers to actually find housing.

Arguably the biggest fear on the side against the rent freeze is what comes next. While many on the side for the freeze expressed that this freeze would simply serve as a moratorium to conduct further discussions on a more long-term solution.
However, landlords fear that this period will extend way beyond its intended time frame,
effectively making it permanent.

The urgency ordinance was only called for after City Council listened to these two sides for an extensive time. While the decision wasn’t entirely unanimous, with Vice Mayor Göran Eriksson professing his belief that rent freezes do not actually do what they intend, city staff was directed to use LA County’s Temporary Rent Stabilization as a guideline. However, there are specifics that were agreed upon to help appease both sides. This includes the 3% rent increase cap, just cause, no-fault, and relocation assistance provisions for tenants, as well as a process for landlords to petition to go above the increased cap in special circumstances to protect the ability to refurbish and repair housing.

The meeting on August 12 will serve as a venue for both sides to see a completed ordinance that their input was considered for, and hopefully reach a compromise.
“Culver City’s tenants are concerned with runaway costs, stability, and predictability, and so are landlords. Their concerns are strikingly similar – even though their ‘sides’ are different. Our challenge is to bridge that divide, to bring individuals together, and to provide stability for those who depend on housing and those who provide housing. We all want our families to thrive,” said Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells.” I look forward to a constructive community dialogue while we tackle the humanitarian crisis of homelessness and the immense challenges of housing affordability and displacement.”