Although the latest homeless count shows all age groups are threatened by economic changes beyond their control, older adults are especially finding themselves threatened with homelessness by skyrocketing rents. The 2018 Homeless Count found a dramatic increase (22%) in adults 62 years or older who became homeless in the past year, and a recent UCLA report stated that older adults are the most rent-burdened group in LA County with 22% moderately burdened and 58% severely burdened.

Today, the Board of Supervisors advanced a temporary rent stabilization policy in the unincorporated areas of LA County in order to protect renters threatened by skyrocketing rents.  The ordinance will set a 3% annual cap on rents for a temporary period of six months with base rent to be set as of September 11, 2018. The new rule will apply to LA County unincorporated areas which is home to approximately 1 million County residents.  An estimated 200,000 renters will be protected by the motion.  Studies indicate that rent stabilization most benefits longtime tenants who tend to be older adults.

“Many of our County families and seniors live month to month in fear of homelessness, knowing that their rents could rise significantly and quickly at any time,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion. “If we want to stem the tide of people falling into homelessness and be sure our seniors, as well as other renters, are protected from eviction, we have to curb unrestricted growth in rents. To this end, we are directing County agencies to draft an ordinance within 60 days to temporarily limit rent increases and evictions without just cause.”

“Building new units is one way to address the housing crisis, but we need a multi-pronged approach. Keeping residents in their homes is the best way to stem the tide of homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “I represent some of the neediest communities in LA County: in the First District’s unincorporated areas, 29% of households are severely rent-burdened. Too many families are only a paycheck away from being homeless. Today’s action will protect longtime, responsible rent-paying tenants from losing their homes because of uncontrolled rent hikes.”

Jose Nunez, a factory worker at risk of eviction who lives in an area of unincorporated LA County said, “Because my building is in Florence Firestone, which is not part of any city, we don’t have any laws protecting us and the landlord can evict us for any reason they feel like. We worked hard all our whole lives. Now, at 63 and disabled, I never expected to be facing homelessness with my wife in our old age! If we only had protections maybe things would be different.”

In contradiction to arguments about the ineffectiveness of rent stabilization measures, Supervisor Kuehl cited a forthcoming literature summary of rent regulations by Dr. Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, and his colleagues Vanessa Carter and Maya Abood.  Professor Pastor said that his research indicates that “limiting rent increases cannot fully solve the housing crisis confronting much of urban California, but rent regulations are one tool to deal with sharp upticks in rent and have less deleterious effects than is often imagined, particularly if we are talking about moderate rent stabilization measures.”

The Supervisors’ action today builds on recent County efforts to reduce homelessness through dozens of strategies including a significant expansion of street outreach, support services for individuals at risk of homelessness, and increased investment in affordable housing.  In its first year (2017-2018), the County’s Homeless Initiative placed 7,448 homeless families and individuals in permanent housing, and more than 13,000 people in crisis, bridge, and interim housing.

Just last week, the Supervisors adopted a temporary 3% rent cap on renters living in mobile homes in unincorporated Los Angeles.