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Mass Rent-Control Evictions Doubled in Los Angeles Last Year

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Mass evictions of rent-controlled buildings are the hot new thing in Los Angeles—in 2014, there were more than double the number in 2013, which was in turn a 40 percent increase over 2012 (the trend began in 2009). Using California's Ellis Act, landlords can evict all of their tenants, so long as the landlord then sells the building, turns the apartments into condos, or allows the building to be vacant for at least five years. According to the latest numbers from the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, via KPCC, in 2013, landlords evicted people from 308 rent-controlled apartments using the Ellis Act; in 2014, that number rose to 725 apartments. "Every rent-controlled tenant should be worried, and it's going to get worse," says Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival.

The general manager for the LA Housing and Community Investment Department says that this uptick in evictions began in 2009, but it's been a long time since the eviction total jumped by this much (235 percent from 2013 to 2014), although it's still not at a high for the decade yet. In 2005, at the height of the real estate bubble, 5,425 units were cleared out; in 2006, 4,206 rent-controlled units dropped off the market via the Ellis Act. The eviction numbers are expected to keep rising this year and into the future, though, as housing prices rise and the demand continues to far exceed the supply of housing.

According to Gross, affected areas "span from Venice, cut through Hollywood and Koreatown, and encompass parts of Silver Lake and Echo Park"; over in the Valley, there's a "hotspot" in Sherman Oaks, Studio City, and Valley Village that seems to be affecting people who work in entertainment—notably members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—in numbers that Gross says he hasn't seen before. Incidentally, those areas track closely with the neighborhoods that have the vast majority of short-term Airbnb units in Los Angeles; a recent study examined how the rash of vacation rental is affecting the regular rental market in those places. (Meanwhile, in neighboring Santa Monica, the number of Ellis Act evictions nearly tripled between 2013 and 2014.)

Sure, landlords want to take advantage of an expensive real estate market and get out of the rent control game, but with LA's dire housing crisis—especially for affordable housing—the people who get booted from these apartments likely have increasing fewer options for where to go next. "This is just another sign that there's real pressure in affordable housing in Los Angeles," says a professor from USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy.