Who benefits when an apartment building is retrofitted to be safer in an earthquake? The landlord of course makes all the money that comes out of the building, and they'll dodge any lawsuits that might've resulted from an un-retrofitted structure. Tenants, on the other hand, are less likely to do in the next huge earthquake? And yet Los Angeles is going to make the two groups split the costs of implementing its unprecedentedly huge retrofitting mandate, passed last fall, which will require updates for about 15,000 buildings across the city (mostly older concrete buildings and dingbat-type buildings with partial first stories). After a year of debate, the LA City Council voted today to allow landlords to pass on half of the cost of retrofits, plus half the cost of seismic evaluations and half the cost of interest on any loans taken out to pay for the work, reports the LA Times.
Los Angeles housing laws allow landlords to increase rents by $75 a month to pay for seismic retrofitting, but the deal passed today is seen as a compromise, because it only allows them to raise rents by $38 a month over a 10-year period to pay for rerofits. Larry Gross, LA's hardworkingest tenant advocate as the director for the Coalition for Economic Survival, calls it "a win-lose situation … Any increase to tenants today has a detrimental impact on their financial stability. On the other hand, we made significant progress on softening the blow." Rents in Los Angeles are often ranked the least affordable in the nation—while they lag New York and San Francisco, wages here are also far lower.
On the other hand, Jim Clarke of the powerful landlord group the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles is quoted in the Times saying "Is it the best we could get or expect? Probably."
Now that the cost issue is settled mostly in favor of landlords, the city will have to figure out how to actually get 15,000 buildings updated in a relatively short period of time (seven to 25 years, depending on the type of building). The LA Department of Building and Safety is finishing up its list of buildings for retrofitting, after which the city will begin notifying owners. Then there's the matter of issuing permits and processing rent increases. And finally, everyone's worried "that a sudden demand for thousands of mandatory retrofits will create price surges for qualified structural engineers and construction contractors." Capitalism at work!
· L.A. landlords and tenants will share earthquake retrofit costs under deal approved by City Council [LAT]
· Los Angeles Requiring Earthquake Retrofitting For 15,000 of Its Scariest Apartment Buildings [Curbed LA]
· Los Angeles Will Start Requiring Earthquake Retrofits For Apartment Buildings in February [Curbed LA]
· 58.5 Percent of Los Angeles Renters Can't Afford Their Rent [Curbed LA]