Los Angeles County could approve rent control ordinance

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Unincorporated Los Angeles County residents could be among the first to receive respite from rising rent, thanks to an ordinance requested by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The ordinance will be drawn up by counsel and must be voted on again in 60 days, will set base rent at Tuesday’s prices and limit rent increases to three percent in unincorporated areas of the county. The cap would last six months.

“I think it’s a great first step in establishing a rent stabilization,” tenants’ rights activist Josh Butler said. “It’s something the Board of Supervisors can do right now.”

Butler said that many tenants in Los Angeles County fear a surprise increase in rents if Proposition 10, which would allow local governments to create rent control laws, passes. By freezing rents in November, the County could give itself the breathing room needed to create a permanent policy, Butler said.

Butler, who attended the meeting, said the room was excited for the ordinance to pass, but others in attendance disagreed. Many landlords and agencies that represent property owners said the ordinance would hurt rather than boost housing supply.

“Emotionally, there’s certainly a great deal of compassion for people who are on fixed income and their rents are increasing,” Prop 10 opponent and landlord Steven Maviglio said. But the proponents of Prop 10 don’t try to build more housing.”

Maviglio said that evidence from across the country suggests that rent control takes homes off the market, as it did in Berkeley, where 3,000 units have left the market thanks to rental policies.

However, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl maintained the plan will help solve the homelessness crisis, particularly among seniors who have been priced out of their homes. Kuehl and Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion, cited research by USC and UCLA professors finding that rent regulations can help make housing more affordable, while opponents cited a Stanford Study concluding that rent control incentivizes condominium conversions and sales to owner-occupants, reducing the supply of rental housing and increasing gentrification.

According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, both supporters and opponents get something right. A recent report concluded that rent control would likely lower rents, but also reduce new construction and lower property values.

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