Today, the Board of Supervisors, building upon lessons learned during the pandemic, adopted two rent protection motions to help keep low-income families in their homes and to reduce the inflow of people into homelessness.
The first motion, authored by Supervisors Kuehl and Mitchell, calls for countywide expansion of LA County’s Stay Housed eviction defense program. The program, which launched during the pandemic, incorporates outreach, education, short-term rental assistance and limited and full-scope legal services. Leveling the playing field by providing low income renters with counsel has proven to dramatically increase the number of renters who are able to remain in their homes. It also dramatically reduces long-term public costs. Studies of similar programs in other jurisdictions have seen significant long-term savings when tax dollars are invested up front to prevent people from becoming homeless. A study of a proposed right to counsel program in Los Angeles found that every $1 invested in the program would generate anticipated savings to taxpayers of approximately $4.80.
“The Homeless Count made very clear that COVID emergency rent protections worked to narrow the inflow into homelessness,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We learned lessons during the pandemic and we are putting those lessons into practice by adopting similar policies that prevent people from falling into homelessness. Inflow is our number one challenge with homelessness and we now have proven tools to reduce it.”
“The StayHoused LA program is one of the County’s strongest housing prevention programs serving both tenants and landlords by counseling them on the County’s rental policies,” said LA County Board of Supervisors Chair, Holly J. Mitchell. “Today’s motion provides stability for the program and for residents across the County that rely on these critical services to understand their rights and responsibilities. Housing stability and keeping people housed is how we as a County stop the flood of people becoming homeless which is why StayHoused LA is a tool we must keep in our toolbox.”
The second motion, authored by Supervisors Kuehl and Solis, prohibits evictions for nonpayment of rent of less than one month of fair market rent in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area.
Currently, landlords may file to evict tenants for nonpayment of even a fraction of one month’s rent. LA County is the second jurisdiction to adopt such a threshold in the wake of the pandemic in order to curb evictions and inflow into homelessness. The District of Columbia recently established a threshold under which evictions are banned.
This motion applies only to LA County unincorporated areas, which includes just over one million County residents. It temporarily caps allowable rent increases for rent stabilized units at 3% annually through December 2023. The relationship between rent increases and homelessness was documented in a 2017 Zillow study which indicated that a 5% increase in Los Angeles rents would cause approximately 2,000 people to fall into homelessness.
“The 2022 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count reflected a 4% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. As a County, we understand this number could have been greater if it weren’t for the many relief programs we enacted these past two and half years,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District. “But it also tells us that we need to be careful and thoughtful in implementing programs and policies so that families don’t fall into homelessness and out on the streets. This motion helps to do just that.”
The motion also directs the County to identify supports for mom-and-pop landlords who represent one-third of the LA City rental market according to a 2021 analysis by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy. (The remaining two-thirds of LA City rental housing is owned by corporate investment vehicles.)