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Amid housing crisis, Culver City is the latest town to cap rents

Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Culver City approved a temporary rent control measure early Tuesday morning, joining a handful of other Southern California cities that have boosted tenant protections as the state grapples with an affordability crisis.

In a 4 to 1 vote that followed a five-hour discussion, the city council capped annual increases to 3% in buildings built on or before February 1, 1995. Tenants in those properties will have just-cause evictions protections as well, meaning a landlord can't remove them unless certain conditions are met, such as failure to pay rent.

The "rent freeze" is set to expire in a year -- a move officials say is needed to prevent landlords from jacking up rents while a permanent measure is debated.

"We need to have the freeze in order to have the conversation because the conversation causes displacement," Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said in an interview before the vote.

Restrictions on rent increases and evictions are gaining ground in California as homelessness has surged and tenants at times face rent hikes of more than 50%.

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors extended temporary caps for unincorporated areas while it works on a permanent version. Inglewood did the same amid concerns that investors, attracted by the new Rams Stadium, were displacing longtime residents.

 

Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach took less aggressive approaches, but mandated relocation payments for many tenants forced to leave after steep rent increases.

In those areas, the fight for more protections was led by a growing tenant movement flexing its muscle through protests and rent strikes, said Joe Delgado of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a low-income advocacy group. In some cases, renters have even taken protests directly to their landlords' homes.

But in Culver City, the effort for greater tenant rights has been driven by Protect Culver City Renters, which described itself as a group of mostly homeowners, as well as some renters and small landlords.

Delgado said some elected officials in the county have raised concerns about supporting rent control, because they see support from renters, but not all their constituents.

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