By Wave Staff
INGLEWOOD – An emergency rent control ordinance limiting rent increases and protecting tenants from short-notice evictions was extended April 16, as city officials pledged to adopt a permanent rent control ordinance within 60 days.
The extended emergency ordinance, which applies to apartments in buildings with four or more units built before February 1995, will continue to limit rent increases to 5% a year and protect against 60-day eviction notices when tenants are paid up on their rent.
If officials do not adopt a rent control measure by mid-June, the emergency ordinance can be extended until Dec. 31, officials said.
The issue surfaced last year after several residents and civic activists complained of hefty rent increases — in one case, a 150% hike — by property owners. That nearly $1,500 rent increase went viral on social media, catching the ire of Mayor James T. Butts, who negotiated the increase down to 28%.
Officials then created an online survey urging residents to submit documentation of rent increases of more than 20%. Officials received 20 submissions, Butts said, with residents reporting an average rent hike of 53%.
As the issue continued to percolate, officials adopted an emergency rent control measure last month. The City Council extended that ordinance April 16.
During a standing room only council meeting, Butts presented his plan for a permanent rent control measure, which includes an 8% cap on rent increases for apartments built before February 1995 and a relocation allowance for rent increases above 4%.
The proposed ordinance also would prevent property owners from raising rents more than once in a 12-month period, Butts said, and would establish a “Just Cause Eviction Policy” protecting renters from receiving 60-day eviction notices, except for criminality, drug use or failure to pay rent.
Under an exception to the measure, landlords would be free to raise rents up to 8% without offering relocation allowances if they can prove their tenant’s rent is less than 80% of market rental rate in Inglewood.
Butts applauded the city’s proposed measure, saying that it could end up becoming “the premiere housing protection ordinance in the country.”
Many property owners oppose the ordinance, however, saying that they’ve kept rents significantly below market rate for years. Their biggest concern now, they say, is relocation allowances of more than $11,000.
Longtime residents and activists also weren’t as complimentary of the ordinance, speaking out against portions of the proposal during public comment.
“Homelessness; that’s what people are facing in Inglewood,” said Julia Wallace, who has lived in Inglewood since 1991. “We need to keep people in Inglewood, not just give (them) a consolation prize for getting kicked,” she said, referencing the relocation allowances.
Tenants rights activist Jorge Rivera and some residents also denounced the 8% rent hike cap, saying that it far exceeds industry standards.
“Generally speaking, rent control ordinances generally stay within the range of 3%,” said Rivera, a regional coordinator for Tenants Together, a statewide tenants rights group. “That’s because it’s supposed to be kept in accordance with the cost of inflation and income increases.”
Rivera said Inglewood’s NFL’s Stadium and Entertainment Complex development makes Inglewood’s rising rent situation unique.
“I think [the stadium] is bringing a lot of investment dollars into the city, but … when there’s more investment into a typically and historically disinvested communities, you’re going to see large amounts of displacement and what people refer to as gentrification,” he said.
“We need to keep people in their homes because we believe that these type of policies like rent control [are] not just stabilizing communities, but [they’re] also a form of homeless prevention,” he added.
“Rent control is not a silver bullet but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Butts said officials ultimately will adopt legislation that balances the interests of local residents with the rights of property owners who want the ability to provide market-rate housing.
District 3 Councilman Eloy Morales agreed, adding: “Nobody is going to be 100% happy when this over.”
In the end, the city’s long-term interests must be protected and advanced, added District 2 Inglewood City Councilman Alex Padilla.
“We’re going to continue to look at this and make the right decision for the city of Inglewood,” he said.
This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers.