A Brief History of Local Rent Control

Many residents advocate for the implementation of rent control, a concept with which cities surrounding Culver City are familiar. On the cusp of an era-defining City Council decision, knowing the history of rent control in peer cities is vital.

On Monday, August 12th, 2019, Culver City City Council meeting will hold a public hearing on a rent freeze. Real estate prices are skyrocketing, driving renters out of Culver City. What protections do renters have against this? In Culver City, virtually none.

In April of 1979, Santa Monica voters chose to adopt rent control measures. The city was experiencing increasing rent and crowding, causing a housing shortage. As a result, Santa Monica implemented regulations stating that most residential rental buildings that were built prior to April 10th, 1970, and some constructed after that date would be encompassed by the newly placed rent control.

With the intention of ensuring that property owners received a fair return and nothing more, Santa Monica’s Rent Control Board “Controls the amount that may continue to be charged for a rental unit and provides remedies for the collection of excess rent,
Determines the amenities and services that are included as part of the rent and provides remedies for removal or reduction of those amenities or services, provides for only “just cause” evictions, and limits removal of controlled units from rental market.”

This includes apartment buildings, as well as some single-family homes and condominiums.

The city of Los Angeles also took action shortly after Santa Monica. Initially, Los Angeles imposed a six-month rent freeze, similar to the one on the table for Culver City. That was in 1978, and as the six months came to an end, the city decided to implement a longer-term solution, the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. Similar to the guidelines in Santa Monica, Los Angeles law ensures that residential buildings constructed before October 1st, 1978 are covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

Based specifically on the Consumer Price Index, Los Angeles rent is restricted to rise three to eight percent each year.

Inglewood is yet another nearby city with rent control ordinances, significantly more recent than Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Just this year, in 2019, and three months after a temporary rent cap, Inglewood has made rent control permanent for the 64 percent of households in the city that rent. Their regulations limit rent increases to five percent annually, with some exceptions up to eight percent for landlords who have historically kept prices below market rate or those who make improvements over $10,000. The cutoff date of protected buildings in Inglewood is February 1995, more recent than Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Protections do not apply to single-family homes or condos.

Each of these cities has a clear construction date after which buildings are not protected by any rent control; protections on newer buildings for any city in California pose a problem. The statewide 1995 Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act prohibits rental restrictions on recently constructed buildings.

Circling back to Culver City, fewer protections are apparent, hence the urgent plea for a rent freeze. The only legal means in place to help renters is The Landlord-Tenant Mediation Board. Instituted in 1981, the Board does precisely what its title implies, offering “voluntary mediation services to the tenant-landlord community.” In 1987 and 2015, the function of the Board was altered to include “mandatory ‘good faith’ mediation of rental disputes relating to rent increases in Culver City.” Good intentions, but no real teeth.

Proponents of rent control argue that it will ensure stable housing and financial reassurance for renters, while opponents argue that rent control will ultimately increase prices for younger, newer residents and properties that are not protected. As for Culver City’s rent freeze specifically, critics claim that a rent cap will fail to acknowledge the underlying issue of a lack of housing.

The public hearing to implement a rent cap in Culver City will be made at today’s City Council meeting at 7pm, August 12th, 2019.

Dorotea Crunk

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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