Author: Joe Brizzolara / April 16, 2018
The steps outside of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in Grand Park were alive with chants for rent control this past Thursday. A coalition of affordable housing groups from across the Greater L.A. area held a press conference to a scattering of press and onlookers. Organizers held signs with slogans including “No Nos Vamos A Dejar” (‘we are not going to leave’) and “Make Housing Affordable!”, while standing behind moving boxes.
Most of these groups are currently gathering signatures to put rent control initiatives on their cities’ ballots in November.
Allison Henry of the Pasadena Tenants Union announced that their charter amendment had just received an endorsement from the Pasadena Unified School District, Board of Education. Two Board members are actually collecting signatures themselves, Henry added.
“They’re concerned about declining student enrollment and personnel in the district who are getting their own rents increased, outpacing what the district is able to pay them,” said Henry.
The conference featured both Spanish and English speakers. Each speaker was followed by a translator who summarized their statement.
Mike Van Gorder, Captain with the Glendale Tenants Union, shared stories of Glendale residents who have suffered dramatic rent increases, including two who were forced to move out of the city. His organization is seeking an ordinance in Glendale that will cap rent increases at 4% a year.
“I’m not here to talk about my own massive misfortunes because in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been very lucky,” said Van Groder. “But should we have to rely on luck for a [sic] living situation? No.”
Van Gorder listed other reforms he’d like to see in place: “Repeal Costa-Hawkins, get rid of the Ellis Act, we need income reflective housing for the working class, we need vacancy taxes, we need a public bank to fund public land trusts and public housing.”
“But first things first,” said Van Gorder, “We need meaningful rent stabilization.”
Jordan Wynne, of Housing Long Beach, ended his statement with a chant for “Rent Control Now!” If passed, their ordinance would cap rent increases at 100% of the C.P.I., a index used by government to determine inflation.
Promise Lee, an organizer with Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, called for an expansion of rent control in the City of Los Angeles.
Lee described the situation in a non-rent controlled building: “There are folks that have already been forced out because they can’t pay these rent increases. And across the hall there are these young hip white folks who are moving in and partying in those flats while the remaining low-income residents are working and fighting and organizing to stay.”
Roughly 43.6% of housing units in the City of Los Angeles are rent controlled, according to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Housing and Community Investment Department of the City of Los Angeles.
Many Affordable housing advocates want to expand rent control by repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act, a state law which prohibits certain units from being rent-controlled. Signature gathering is currently underway for a statewide proposition to do just that in November.
Alberto Andrata of Pomona, Apolonio Cortez of Santa Ana, and Maria Gustos of Unincorporated East L.A. all delivered their statements in Spanish. Like their English-speaking counterparts, they spoke of predatory landlords and wages unable to keep pace with rising housing costs.
Woodrow Curry of Uplift Inglewood, also pushing for a rent control charter amendment, delivered a call to action: “Join a local campaign if there is a local campaign in your area. If there is not a local campaign in your area, do like many of us have done and start one.”
Repeal of Cost-Hawkins and rent control initiatives are being strongly opposed by Apartment Associations in the state which represent real estate developers and landlords. The largest among them, the California Apartment Association, successfully lobbied against a repeal of Costa-Hawkins in the state assembly earlier this year. In 2017, their political action committee reported total contributions of a little over $1.5 million.