Renters Face Displacement – Advocates Call for Safeguards
By Dolores Quintana
In an effort to address the pressing need for affordable housing, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has issued an emergency order that has, in turn, led to the displacement of residents from rent-controlled apartments, creating a significant challenge for those unable to afford relocation.
According to an article by the Los Angeles Times, scores of residents are being compelled to relocate due to Executive Directive 1, the mayor’s initiative to expedite the construction of affordable homes.
The directive, credited with accelerating the review process for over 9,000 new apartments categorized as “affordable” with specific rent caps, is under consideration for permanent implementation. If enacted into law, it would eliminate public hearings and some time-consuming reviews for projects deemed 100 percent affordable.
However, renters’ rights groups argue that the city must first implement additional safeguards to protect tenants. Instances include a South L.A. couple, immigrants from Guatemala, facing eviction from their rent-controlled granny flat, slated for demolition to make way for an affordable housing project. Despite eligibility for nearly $25,000 in relocation payments, they have encountered challenges finding affordable L.A. apartments, particularly those that permit dogs.
Maria Patiño Gutierrez, handling land-use policy for the nonprofit Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, expressed concern about the potential loss of apartments regulated by the city’s rent stabilization ordinance, designed to limit rent increases in older apartment buildings. She warns that if the mayor’s program becomes permanent, the number of low-cost apartments targeted for removal, especially in South L.A., will likely increase, resulting in residents being pushed out of their neighborhoods.
While Los Angeles is recognized for having robust tenant protections, renters’ rights groups advocate for additional measures to ensure that low-income renters displaced by affordable housing projects are not compelled to move to distant, more economical areas.
Advocates argue that these tenants should have access to apartments in new affordable projects developed within their communities. Responding to concerns from tenant advocates, Mayor Bass has initiated an assessment of her fast-track strategy, emphasizing the importance of finding ways to protect low-income renters while accelerating affordable housing production.
In an interview with the Times, Mayor Bass acknowledged the need to thoroughly examine the program, stating, “Now that this has come to our attention, we are going to take a microscope to the program. The goal of this is for people to live better, not to hurt people.”
Executive Directive 1 is touted as one of Mayor Bass’ greatest achievements a year into her term as mayor. From January through September, developers submitted applications to build over 12,000 affordable units, nearly double the proposals from the same period the previous year. Projects categorized as 100 percent affordable are expected to result in the demolition of 195 rent-controlled units across the city, with 46 new affordable housing units proposed for each unit being replaced, according to information from the mayor’s team.