On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted on a sunset date of January 31 for what amounted to almost three years of renter protections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The council vote was unanimous.

Renters affected by COVID had been protected from eviction since March 2020, when the council saw the pandemic possibly resulting in tens of thousands of evictions for those who lost their jobs as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Some good news is that the city council also voted to draw up an ordinance requiring just cause evictions, a big first for a city the size of Los Angeles. But that fact apparently drew little press on Wednesday, something for which Councilmember Nithya Raman lamented in a tweet, saying, “I’m a little shocked that there hasn’t been more coverage of the fact that the second largest city in America just passed universal just cause protections for all tenants yesterday.”

She continued her thread explaining the benefits of this new policy, adding, “Just cause protections mean landlords have to cite a valid reason if evicting a tenant (like nonpayment or a lease violation). In cities where they’ve been implemented, they’ve helped to slow displacement and protect renters,” and “Hundreds of thousands of tenants in this city are now better protected because of them.”

Raman may be a little ahead of herself, as the new ordinance language will have to be voted on. But the council voting to draw up the ordinance is the strongest clue that a majority of council members intend to support it.

Pro-tenant organizations and their allies rallied outside Los Angeles City Hall to demand strong permanent protections for tenants, and to fight against the termination of the city’s emergency COVID-19 tenant protections prior to the council vote. The Keep LA Housed (KLAH) coalition, in partnership with other organizations like the hotel and restaurant workers union, UNITE HERE Local 11, was joined by United to House LA, which is pushing for Measure ULA on the November ballot*.

Faizah Malik, an attorney with Public Counsel and member of KLAH, highlighted the dissonance between the concerns being expressed by landlords and tenants, stating that “On one side of the equation is a profit motive. On the other side of the equation is a roof over a family’s head.” She emphasized, as did Councilmember Raman, that the emergency protections put in place during the pandemic were successful in keeping people off the streets, and that to lift them without first implementing permanent protections to replace them would be “reckless and inhumane”.

Tenant and member of UNITE HERE Local 11 – Jose Calderón – who works at the Line Hotel in Koreatown spoke to the connection between housing justice and worker’s rights. “In this crisis, working people struggle to stay housed, but before we become homeless, we double up or triple up with friends or family. And during COVID, overcrowding cost us too many lives.”, he said. Calderón then pointed to Measure ULA to help fund the implementation of permanent tenant protections, stating, “Measure ULA combined with strong tenant protections will save lives – it’s just that simple.”

Council voted to move forward with the ordinance to sunset emergency protections by January 31 despite being offered an amendment by Raman to extend that date to February 28th. Additionally, Council voted against a motion for an early end to the rent freeze – it will continue, as planned, until January 31, 2024. 

Council also committed to reporting back on additional protections. Among these will be a report to determine a nonpayment threshold to help protect tenants against being evicted for failure to pay small amounts of rent during periods of financial instability, and another to provide adequate relocation assistance to tenants who are forced to move due to large rent increases.  

“We’re not happy about the date for ending protections”, said Carla De Paz, Director of Organizational Strategy at Community Power Collective (CPC) – a member organization of KLAH. “But we are excited about universal just cause and a report back for limiting eviction for folks who can’t pay rent. The pandemic exacerbated an already existing housing crisis, and we said from the beginning that we were not going back to a pre-pandemic status quo. Today we saw some important proposals for permanent protections thanks to the tireless grassroots advocacy from our people, and we’ll be back to make sure they’re adopted.” 

*Read About Measure ULA here: https://bit.ly/3ee6OdC

Photo Credit to Anne Czichos

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