In the city of Los Angeles, 624,000 apartments, townhomes, and other residential units are rent-controlled. | Shutterstock

Any new increases “are put on hold”

The mayor is locking in rental prices in rent-controlled buildings in the city of Los Angeles.

“Rent will stay the same,” mayor Eric Garcetti said this evening in announcing a “freeze” on rents in units covered by the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. He called it “a common sense action” amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The majority of the rental units in Los Angeles fall under the rent stabilization ordinance—624,000 apartments, townhomes, and other units in 118,000 buildings across the city.

Under the ordinance, landlords are allowed to raise rents up to 4 percent annually in the 12-month period that ends in July.

An untold number of owners of rent-controlled buildings have already raised the rents in that period.

But Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, who has pushed for a freeze on rent increases in all buildings, including those not covered by the city’s rent stabilization ordinance, said the mayor’s decision would “save thousands of renters and working families in Los Angeles from a rent increase that is unfair, unjust and unconscionable during this pandemic.”

Garcetti said tonight that any new increases “are put on hold… until after this emergency period is over.”

Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles executive director Daniel Yukelson called the move unfair, especially because it benefits renters who might not be facing financial hardships right now, he said.

“Property owners are not public ATMs,” Yukelson said in a statement. “At what point does the city of Los Angeles provide any level of assistance to mom-and-pop property owners in danger of permanently losing their livelihoods? We deserve help just like all other citizens of our city.”

Tenant advocates, on the other hand, say the mayor’s action, while “good,” doesn’t go nearly far enough.

The temporary fix doesn’t do much to address the fact that many people are going to have trouble making their rent at its current rate too, says Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival.

“It’s far from what we truly need,” says Gross, who wants to see a full eviction moratorium and a total rent and mortgage freeze.

The mayor also announced tonight that he had signed new renter protections passed Friday by the Los Angeles City Council, which include extending the amount of time Angelenos who have been impacted by COVID-19 have to pay back their rent—now 12 months for residential tenants and 3 months for commercial tenants.

The mayor said he was continuing to work with councilmembers to close loopholes in the existing legislation “so that tenants don’t, the day after this crisis, suddenly find themselves evicted and out on the street.”