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New report underscores link between ‘shocking’ number of evictions, homelessness

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“It would be naive to ignore the connection between evictions and homelessness”

The homeless population count in Los Angeles County has leaped 12 percent in the past year to almost 59,000.
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More than a half million renters have been evicted in Los Angeles County over the past eight years, according to a new report by Public Counsel and the UCLA School of Law that calls on county supervisors to adopt permanent rent control measures.

Between 2010 and 2018, landlords filed 505,924 eviction proceedings in Los Angeles County Superior Court, a figure that the report, titled “Priced Out, Pushed Out, Locked Out,” calls “shocking” and “staggering.”

That figure is “just the tip of the iceberg,” says Doug Smith, a lecturer with UCLA’s law school, as it does not include evictions that are not processed in court. The report references a separate study that estimates there are two “informal” evictions for every court eviction.

The report’s authors say a cap on rent hikes—along with a number of other tenant protection measures—could cork a swell of homelessness that has left 58,936 residents without permanent homes in LA County.

“The county has made enormous investments in addressing homelessness, but these efforts are not enough,” says Nisha Vyas, director of Public Counsel’s homelessness prevention law project. “What we’re seeing is that as soon as people are housed in shelters, they’re replaced on the streets by people who are newly homeless.”

That’s corroborated by the the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority’s 2019 Homeless Count, which found that while 24,493 homeless residents were placed into interim housing in 2018, about 37,000 homeless residents were without shelter for the first time.

In a press call, the report’s authors also reiterated alarming statistics on the number of residents in Los Angeles who are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. According to an analysis of 26 point-in-time Southern California homelessness counts, an estimated 600,000 LA County residents spend 90 percent of their income on rent.

“It would be naive to ignore the connection between evictions and homelessness,” says Vyas. “We need to make housing more secure for people at risk of homelessness.

The report draws on court records, census data, and interviews with renters.

“The risk of homelessness was heavy on the mind of nearly every renter we spoke to,” says Smith.

It focuses on unincorporated Los Angeles County, where until recently there were “virtually no protections” for tenants, says Public Counsel staff attorney Greg Bonett, one of the report’s lead authors.

In November, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a temporary rent control ordinance limiting rent increases in unincorporated Los Angeles County to 3 percent. The ordinance is set to expire on December 31. (Several incorporated cities in the county already have permanent rent control measures on the books, including the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood.)

There are 88 unincorporated communities in LA County, covering 2,653.5 square miles, including Marina del Rey, East Los Angeles, Altadena, Rowland Heights, Walnut Park, and dozens more.

The report estimates that there are 403,290 tenants living in unincorporated LA County, up since 12 percent since 2010. Of those, it’s estimated that more than 150,000 live in properties eligible for rent control under Costa Hawkins, a state law that places restrictions on local rent control laws.

“There is a devastating connection between the county’s lack of tenant protections and its increased rates of homelessness,” says Smith.

In addition to rent control, the report’s authors recommend that county supervisors mandate relocation payments to tenants who are evicted “without cause” and provide legal counsel to tenants facing eviction in court.

The report also imparts the importance of keeping renters in their home to help stabilize communities. Households that stay intact can help build generational wealth, leading to public investments in parks, streets, and schools.

When tenants are forced out because of exorbitant rent increases, it “tears at the very fabric of our communities,” says Pamela Agustin, an organizer with Eastside LEADS and the Unincorporated Tenants United Coalition.

“While thousands of families have been able to breathe a little easier because of the temporary rent freeze, to feel truly secure, they need long-term protections that only a permanent rent stabilization ordinance can bring,” Agustin said in a statement.