Tuesday, January 5, 2017 – by BILL BOYARSKY
The growing shortage of affordable rental housing in Los Angeles is reaching crisis proportions among a group too often ignored — poor, elderly Jews fearing eviction or unaffordable rent increases.
They’ve found the plight of older people is not what we want to imagine. We’d like to think of seniors surrounded by supportive family, bolstered by Medicare, savings and investments, secure in the last years of their lives. Rather, their lives too often fit the description attributed to the late actress Bette Davis: “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Death and estrangement may have taken spouses, children and other relatives. Illness and medical bills, beyond Medicare limits, may have drained savings, which also may have been looted by crooked insurance sales people, greedy relatives or unethical financial advisers. Many are disabled, receiving monthly disability payments that have not been adjusted for inflation for more than 30 years. Some are Holocaust survivors, never fully recovered from their terrible experiences. The poor are hardest hit, of course. But others feel the strain of living on fixed incomes, which may have seemed sufficient on retirement day but now are not.
The rental housing shortage has a special resonance for Jewish seniors who often want to live in Jewish neighborhoods, close to friends, synagogues and kosher stores.
Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, is a longtime advocate for tenant rights. I’ve been interviewing him on the issue for more than 20 years. I asked him about the housing shortage, as it affected Jews and non-Jews alike. “Our crisis is not just a crisis, it is a catastrophe,” he said. Los Angeles, he said, “has the distinction of being No. 1 in the nation” when it comes to high rents. “About 64 percent of renters pay unaffordable rent, paying more than 60 percent of their income for rent.” Angelenos, he said, would need to have a family income of $80,000 a year for an average two-bedroom apartment.
Gross said, “Regardless of who you are and where you live, if you live in a rent-controlled unit, you have a target on your back.”
Coalition for Economic Survival Calls for Restricting Airbnb in Rent Controlled Buildings in LA Times Article
Monday, January 3, 2017
From Immigration to Short-Term Housing to Street Vendors, L.A. City Hall Faces a Heavy Agenda
by Dakota Smith
The City Council is expected to finally pass a law to regulate short-term housing rentals.
Despite the widespread popularity of companies like Airbnb, it’s still illegal in much of Los Angeles to rent out a residence for less than 30 days at a time, according to planning department officials.
Airbnb critics argue home-sharing companies cannibalize rental housing and changes the character of neighborhoods by filling apartments with travelers.
Under the proposal being considered by the council, housing covered by the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance — believed to be about 80% of the city’s rental stock — couldn’t be rented out on home-sharing companies.
Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, said home-sharing companies are hurting L.A.’s stock of affordable housing. “They must be restricted,” Gross said of Airbnb.
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) has expressed deep concern and outrage at President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of Ben Carson to be the new Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). CES does not believe Carson has the knowledge, experience, ability, compassion or commitment to the goals of HUD to lead the nation’s housing agency.
Over the last 4 decades, CES has been the leading organization in the Los Angeles area that has provided outreach, education and organizing assistance to tenants living in HUD subsidized housing in an effort to preserve this important and significant number of affordable housing units.
HUD oversees federal rental assistance programs that serve over 5 million of the country’s lowest income households, as well as administers tens of billions of dollars in community development, disaster recovery, and homeless assistance funding, enforces fair housing laws and acts as one of the largest mortgage insurers in the world. HUD plays a critical role in alleviating poverty, stabilizing and revitalizing communities, increasing the educational attainment and incomes of low-income families, and providing safe, affordable homes to deeply poor elderly or disabled families.
But by his own admission, Carson has stated that he “feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency,” when his name was suggest to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
Carson’s aide, Armstrong Williams, has stated recently, “He’s never run an agency and it’s a lot to ask. He’s a neophyte and that’s not his strength,”
Carson has been deeply critical of social welfare programs. He has characterized the country’s safety net of cash assistance, housing allowances and social services as a failure that perpetuates dependence on government.
He is known for offering provocative commentary on a wide range of issues, including comparing the modern American government to Nazi Germany in a March 2014 interview with Breitbart, and saying at the Voter Values Summit in 2013 that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”
In a 2015 opinion for The Washington Times, Carson compared an Obama administration’s “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” regulation to “the failure of school busing” because it would place affordable housing “primarily in wealthier neighborhoods with few current minority residents.
The regulation is designed to end decades-old segregation by offering affluent areas incentives to build affordable housing. Critics, including Carson, called it government overreach.
CES Executive Director Larry Gross said, “Ben Carson is totally unqualified to be HUD Secretary. HUD is among the most important federal agencies tasked with ensuring compliance with the Fair Housing Act, and creating affordable, preventing housing discrimination and ensuring inclusive communities. Ben Carson has shown a complete disregard and open hostility to government efforts to confront racist and discriminatory practices in the housing industry.”
Gross further stated, “The appointment of Ben Carson indicates that Donald Trump and his admiration has a complete disregard for tenants’ rights and an absolute lack of commitment to ensuring America’s poor will have a roof over their heads that is decent and that is one they can afford. This clearly is not a holiday present low-income HUD tenants wanted.”
In response the growing tactic of unscrupulous landlords attempting to coerce tenants living in rent controlled units to move by offering them “cash for keys,” the Los Angeles City Council Housing Committee considered a Tenant Protection Buyout Program proposal on August 17, 2016.
The Los Angeles Housing + Community Development Department (HCIDLA) presented their proposal to amend the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to prevent tenants from entering into buyout agreements without a full understanding of their rights. The proposal is based on a similar program adopted by the City of Santa Monica.
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) and tenants currently facing landlord pressure to sign buyout agreements testified in support of the buyout proposal.
Landlords are using these buyouts to get tenants out without having to go through the Ellis Act Eviction Process or filing a Tenant Habitability Plan, two programs that protect tenants against abuse. By avoiding these processes landlords can obtain higher rents without paying correct relocation amounts, providing tenants the legal amount of time to move, providing tenants temporary relocation housing while the building is being renovated, being limited in raising rents and being prohibited from re-renting the units for 5 years, depending on what their intentions are for the property.
CES Director of Organizing Carlos Aguilar told the Committee, “While Ellis Act evictions spread throughout the city, we have seen an additional trend that greatly concerns us. Landlords are even bolder using more illegal tactics and offering cash for keys to get tenants out.”
Aguilar also said, For the most part, low income, immigrants and non-English speaking tenants are targeted for the lower illegal amounts. Many tenants don’t know they rights and believe they have no choice but taking the money and leaving.”
LA City Council Member David Ryu in a letter to the Committee stated, “The Rent Stabilization Ordinance was created to protect residents from excessive rent increases and limit reason for evictions. Yet, landlords will often offer “voluntary” buyout agreements to avoid these protections and skirt the law. As the real estate market has recovered, developers have been taking advantage of these “cash for keys” buyout tactics more frequently.”
The proposal would do the following:
- Create a definition for a Buyout Agreement and Buyout Offer.
- Require that landlords provide tenants with a written disclosure notice of the tenant’s rights under the RSO with regard to eviction and relocation assistance, including contact information for the HCIDLA landlord/tenant hotline.
- Allow tenants to rescind buyout agreements for any reason for up to 30 days after the agreements are fully executed.
- Further provide that the tenant may rescind agreements that do not satisfy the stipulated requirements at any time.
- Require that landlords file copies of all buyout agreements with HCIDLA’s Rent Stabilization Division.
- Provide tenants with an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer and a civil remedy for actual damages and civil penalties against landlords who fail to comply with the buyout agreement regulations.
The Housing Committee adopted the proposal and moved it to the full City Council for approval.
With a unanimous 13-0 vote the Los Angeles City Council voted to extend the City’s Foreclosure Eviction Ordinance to protect tenants living in rental properties not subject to the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) from eviction on the grounds of foreclosure for another two years. Tenants living in rent controlled units have had these protections.
Multi-family rental units built after 1978 and all single-family home rentals are not subject to the City’s rent control law.
The Ordinance extension approved on December 15, 2015 prohibits lenders from evicting any tenants in the City merely because of foreclosure on their landlords.
The law requires landlords seeking to recover possession of a rental unit from a tenant, must comply with all the RSO requirements and provisions for eviction, including the payment of relocation fees for no-fault evictions. Since the passage of the Ordinance, more than 59,000 properties containing over 79,000 units have been foreclosed on in the City.
The Foreclosure Eviction Ordinance was originally passed on December 17, 2008 and was nation’s first Foreclosure Eviction Moratorium. It has been extended every year since in response to a national crisis that has not subsided.
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) advocated for the original law in 2008 and every extension since then.
CES Executive Director Larry Gross stated, “The foreclosure crisis and its impact on hardworking Americans is a national disgrace. It’s especially unjust for the forgotten victims — tenants.
They’ve done nothing wrong. Paid their rent on time. But, without this protection these heartless banks could evict evict them simply because they’re living in foreclosed rental property.
Gross went on to say, “We applaud the Council in providing national leadership by enacting the strongest tenant foreclosure protections in the country. It provides tenants with a little bit of hope and justice. This action is an action needed to help keep these banks accountable. It truly is a tenants’ rights victory.”
The LA Housing and Community Investment Department Foreclosure Registry data for 2015 indicates that the foreclosure crisis continues to affect City residents and neighborhoods. A total of 10,381 properties were registered in the City’s Foreclosure Registry from January through November 8, 2015, comprised of 4,273 first time property registrations and 6,108 re-registered properties (with a notice of default and/or foreclosure from 2014). This reflects a ten percent increase from 2014 registrations, which totaled 9,431.