If you have a rent-controlled apartment in Los Angeles, you are likely aware that you have been blessed by the rental gods and would only conceive of vacating your home in order to be buried. According to the LA Times, there are "roughly 638,000 such units left in Los Angeles," and they are disappearing at an increasing rate; many are being cleared out to make way for more high-end units. Stats from the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department show a 40 percent increase between 2012 and 2013 in the number of rent-controlled units that owners have filed to take out of circulation. Rent control applies roughly to multi-family buildings built before 1979 and it caps the amount a landlord can raise rent on an existing tenant; once a tenant moves out, the landlord can charge a new tenant anything he likes. The stock of rent-control housing could take an even bigger hit soon. Landlords are fighting for fewer restrictions on California's Ellis Act, which allows a landlord to evict all his tenants if he wants to convert or demolish his building. (Ellis is already sweeping through San Francisco, pushing out long-time residents in favor of rich tech types.) While landlords say the Ellis Act is crucial for when they want to get out of the property-ownership game (have they heard of selling?), that's not really how it's being used: "Of the Los Angeles properties where owners filed to remove rent controlled units under Ellis in 2013, at least 51% had been purchased within the previous year," meaning that unless these new owners were all gravely mistaken about what it means to be a landlord, they're probably only looking to get out of the rent-control game.
Many are looking to get into the business of new development, in fact, tearing down old apartment buildings and putting up shiny new condos or "luxury" rentals (which is about all we see being built around town these days) that the old tenants could never afford. Westlake and Hollywood, both neighborhoods with older housing stock and many lower-income renters, have been losing the most rent-controlled units recently.
(However, the number of evictions under the Ellis Act is still much lower than it was in the high housing-bubble days: In 2007, LA landlords evicted 1,352 households from rent-controlled units, but in 2013, they evicted only 250. Previous estimates from tenants' rights organizations had put evictions up around 1,000 units. But that's still 250 households that were evicted without doing anything wrong, and who were left to hunt for housing in an increasingly expensive market.)
The thing is, it's already quite a challenge to be a renter in Los Angeles: rents are already unaffordable to a lot of workers and climbing, there's incredible competition for the available space, and the homeownership dreams of those who were bold enough to have them have probably been crushed by now.
While low-income housing evaporates, there seems to be no shortage of pricey new apartments, which are appearing regularly, from Chinatown to Echo Park and Hollywood to Ktown.
· Evictions from rent-controlled units on the rise in L.A. [LAT]
· LA Landlords Fighting to Keep Their Freedom to Evict Tenants Whenever They Want [Curbed LA]
· LA Renters Have to Make $27 an Hour to Afford a Two-Bedroom [Curbed LA]