January 22nd will mark one year since the rent stabilization urgency ordinance was adopted. Ever since, city staffers have watched the calendar as days get crossed off because state law says we have one year to create a rental unit registry and ‘certify’ lawful rents if we want to regulate the cost of rental housing. The window is closing and time is running out even as landlord try to hobble the city’s effort.
Tuesday’s staff report notes that without a rental unit registry completed by January the City will not be able to enforce the rent stabilization ordinance and take action against a landlord who charges rent in excess of what the city has determined is the allowable rent under the ordinance.
That’s why landlords have been working by hook and crook to delay or disable the registry, trying to stall Council action to implement it and filing lawsuits against it. When landlords in July took their arguments against the registry to City Council, three of our five councilmembers voted to put off funding the rent stabilization program in response.
Even before the program had gotten off the ground, two our our councilmembers balked that the city fund it before we have a final rent stabilization ordinance in hand. We called that a major setback for tenants because it was an unmistakable sign that not all councilmembers were totally on board with the program.
Time and again in the past, even incremental efforts to improve the regulation of rental housing for tenants went astray given lack of councilmember support.
For Tuesday’s meeting, staff will ask for $766,395 to fund a program largely with temp workers though the end of the fiscal year. That is a punt on our Rent Stabilization Program. What’s on tap is an executive director and only six temp workers. Read the staff report for Tuesday’s meeting.
For comparison read the Management Partners report from July to understand the permanent staffing needs of a 1.5M program. That includes the executive director and eight analysts and outreach staffers.
Again, this is a program that would regulate rental housing for HALF of the city’s households. That’s nearly 8,000 families that rent housing! The city spends $1.5M on holiday lighting every year. Why are we punting on the Rent Stabilization Program?
It makes one wonder if the landlords gaining some traction and tying the purse strings. We will know more after discussion at Tuesday’s 7 p.m. meeting.
It would be one thing if city was slimming-down a running program by, say, trimming staff; it is another to under-price the ramp-up of a program. Consider an analogy: to get your car up to speed you have to mash on the accelerator. Once it’s at speed you lighten up on the gas.
This pared-down budget proposes that the city gets a rent stabilization program up to speed with just a light tap on the accelerator. That’s like entering freeway traffic with a light foot on the accelerator and ambivalence about even driving fifty-five.
I hope you will join your fellow tenants on Tuesday, September 5th after 7 p.m. in Council Chambers to remind our elected officials that we’re lagging far behind other rent-stabilized cities around us. As Beverly Hills dithers, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles are bolstering their programs and tenant protections. We’re tootling along as they disappear over the horizon.