Due to the Rent Control Board’s Annual General Adjustment – determined by 75 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – Santa Monica renters are facing a 6 percent annual rental increase to their maximum allowable rent (MAR) beginning September 1. Six percent marks the current maximum established by Measure GA in 2012 (The current CPI was actually higher). This may be lowered to 3 percent, regardless of inflation, in January if voters approve a Measure RC on the November 8 ballot. The 3 percent maximum would then replace the 6 percent going forward. But until that time, thousands of rent-burdened tenants, increasingly paying upwards of 50 percent or more of their income to make rent, will face a challenging few months this fall.

Tuesday night, the city council stepped in and approved a Temporary Eviction Moratorium for rent-controlled tenants facing the 6 percent increase starting next week. The emergency ordinance represents another of several COVID and other rental emergency measures that have been put in place since the pandemic began. However, it is not the same as L.A. County’s COVID Emergency Eviction Moratorium, which already remains in place for qualifying low-income households through December 31, 2022. The council’s move, the city stated, “Narrowly applies to tenants in rent-controlled housing who face eviction for nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19 related financial distress for the period between September 1, 2022, and January 31, 2023.” But it does not apply to any landlords who agree not to collect rent increases over 3 percent during this time. Councilmembers Phil Brock and Oscar de la Torre voted against the measure to help renters facing eviction in this situation.

On Monday, the city also announced a new “Rent Control Adjustment Relief” (RCAR) program which will provide financial relief to rent-burdened Santa Monicans living in rent-controlled apartments. The city says the program “Is intended to keep families housed, shield tenants from eviction, and help both property owners and tenants manage this year’s unusually high General Adjustment increase.”

The RCAR program is making $750,000 available in one-time payments, and will, said the city, “Prioritize those households who are expected to be most impacted by the rent increase with priority given to very-low- and extremely-low-income households.” The city added, “The program will focus on tenants who have received a Notice of Rent Increase implementing the 2022 general adjustment and are severely rent-burdened households that are paying 50% or more of their income on rent.”

When can households apply?

The application period will open Monday, August 29 at 8 a.m., and close on Monday, September 19 at 6 p.m. Santa Monica residents in rent-controlled apartments are urged to review the information and apply at http://santamonica.gov/programs/rent-control-adjustment-relief. Qualifying tenants should apply for this program as soon as possible.

For persons with limited access to a computer, applications are available at Virginia Avenue Park (2200 Virginia Avenue) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday from August 29 to September 19 (closed on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5). Both online and printed applications are available in English, Spanish, Amharic, and Farsi. Applications completed on the online portal can be translated into these languages and many more. Rent relief is not automatic; tenants must apply and be qualified to get help. The program is open to all tenants of rent-controlled apartments regardless of citizenship status. Recipients of Section 8, Continuum of Care, HOME, or VASH housing vouchers are not eligible for rent relief.

If applicants need direct assistance completing an application, a Community Clinic will be held at Virginia Avenue Park on September 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On the day of the clinic, staff will provide support in English and Spanish, and interpretation in other languages will be available via Language Link. Appointments are required, call (310) 458-2201, ext. 5771 to make an appointment.

Photo by Panida Wijitpanya

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