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$3M Rent Relief Program To Help Low-Income LA Tenants Facing Short-Term Rent Hikes

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles officials Wednesday provided more details regarding an emergency rent relief subsidy to help low-income city residents who may have seen a spike in their rents ahead of a new state rent cap which takes effect in 2020.

The program, which was unanimously approved by the L.A. City Council last month, provides $3 million to help low-income tenants pay their rent through the end of the year.

It comes in response to complaints that – in the wake of the passage of Assembly Bill 1482 -- some landlords have targeted their tenants with no-fault eviction notices or large rent hikes during the brief three-month window before the statewide rent control law takes effect Jan. 1.

The city council last month passed an emergency ordinance to protect tenants from no-fault evictions over this same time period.

Although AB 1482 was signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8, it does not go into effect until January 1, 2020. On that date, rents will be rolled back to no more than what was charged on March 15, 2019, plus 5 percent.

"At the Housing Rights Center, we've had hundreds of families throughout the city of L.A. come to us, oftentimes entire buildings who'd received notices telling them that they had to leave their apartment," said Chancela Al-Mansur with the Housing Rights Center said at a news conference Wednesday. "Many of these people are the most vulnerable of Los Angeles' residents. I'm talking about families, low-income people, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, people of color."

AB-1482 will limit annual rent increases to 5 percent plus inflation. It also bans landlords from enacting no-fault evictions. The new law will run through 2030. It does not apply to housing built within the last 15 years.

The city of L.A. already has the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which prohibits landlords from increasing rent by more than 3 percent every year for units built before 1979. The RSO also protects those tenants against no-fault evictions. Approximately 76 percent of rental units in L.A. are under the RSO.

City Councilwoman Nury Martinez created the proposal for the emergency relief program.

"This is an emergency (for) good people who are doing the best they can to make ends meet and stay in their apartments," Martinez said earlier this week.

Funds to cover the difference of rent increases will be available to tenants and families at or below 80 percent of area median income and where an eviction lawsuit for non-payment of rent has not yet been adjudicated.

The relief program will provide funds for eligible renters for up to three months to cover rental increases that are above about 8 percent before the state law kicks in.

"If you are a low-income renter who has had their rent increase by more than 8 percent since March 15 of this year, you might be eligible for relief," Martinez said Wednesday.

Martinez said the city is not legally able to freeze rent increases until Jan. 1, but she said this money should keep people from being evicted.

The money will come from a renters' legal fund that the city established to provide tenants with legal representation when facing eviction.

The L.A. Housing+Community Investment Department estimates that for every $1 million in the fund, about 250 to 400 families could be assisted, but the actual number will depend upon on how much people's rent is increased.

The last day for people to apply for the subsidy for rent is Dec. 31. People can find out if they qualify for funds by calling 1-866-557-7368.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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