City offers help for renters facing possible evictions

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City officials are continue to push the message that “help is available” to ensure that tenants remain housed as the Aug. 1 deadline to repay back rent for the first 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

“I want to [emphasize] that our goal is to keep people in their homes,” Mayor Karen Bass said during a news conference July 31 at City Hall. “The city is taking unprecedented actions to keep Angelenos inside, and to make sure that landlords, especially small landlords, do not go into foreclosure.”

Previous protections enacted by the City Council set an Aug. 1 deadline for tenants to pay any back rent due for the period between March 2020 and September 2021. For rent due between October 2021 and Jan. 31 of this year, tenants have until February 2024 to pay any back rent.

Ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline for the first rental period, city officials sought to inform tenants and landlords of their rights and obligations, with the aim of preventing what Bass called a possible “wave of evictions.”

According to city data, eviction filings from the past 12 months were approximately 27,000, and may increase by another 10,000 for this upcoming year.

Information on tenants’ rights and a list of resources can be found at stayhousedla.org/tenant-rights.

City Councilwoman Nithya Raman, chair of the council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee, said that the most “devastating part” of the work on eviction protection or homelessness prevention is that many people “don’t know about the resources available to them.”

The mayor’s office and the Los Angeles Housing Department have launched public information campaigns to inform tenants about protections and resources for Angelenos.

Those campaigns target “high-risk” zip codes that were identified through Stay Housed LA, and also include newly protected units that encompass post-1978 construction and single-family homes. Paid advertisements about protections ran on radio and in community papers in multiple languages.

Ads also ran on social media platforms, resulting in more than 150,000 clicks, as well as on NextDoor, which led to more than 1 million impressions, officials said.

The Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles — an independent nonprofit that supports Bass’ vision for the city — committed its resources to homelessness prevention.

The organization’s “We Are LA” program began recently, intended to help at-risk Angelenos stay housed. Outreach teams connected with nearly 41,000 Angelenos and made case management appointments with more than 10,000 Angelenos.

The program aims to connect with more than 200,000 in the coming weeks.

Raman and Bass also said the courts will be expanding on-site resources in the courthouses for people in need.

“The courts will be encouraged in cases to enter into mediation and other pathways for alternative resolution,” Raman said. “Mayor Bass and I call on judges to do as much of this as possible to give people the lifeline they need to find the resources to help stay housed.”

Measure ULA, also known as the “mansion tax,” is a 4% sales tax on properties exceeding $5 million, and 5.5% sales tax on properties exceeding $10 million. The revenue from the sales tax will be collected and earmarked for renter protections, including protections for low-income seniors at risk of homelessness, rental assistance programs and building more affordable housing units.

City officials initially reported the measure would generate between $600 million and $1.1 billion annually, but that estimate was lowered to $672 million. The mayor’s office reported July 27 that $38 million has so far been raised from the measure.

The mayor’s office indicated the ULA spending plan will come to the City Council soon.

The spending plan proposes the following:

• $18.4 million for a short-term emergency assistance program, allowing eligible-income tenant households to apply for up to six months owed back rent.

• $23 million for the city’s Eviction Defense/Prevention program, which would expand the Stay Housed LA program, a partnership with Los Angeles County, legal service providers and community organizations.

• $5.5 million for a tenant outreach and education program to provide both broad and targeted tenant education outreach services, including workshops, and legal services.

• And $11.2 million for a protections from tenant harassment program to inform tenants and landlords on their rights and obligations. The council adopted the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance in August 2021 to protect tenants from harassment by landlords.

Anna Ortega, assistant general manager of the Housing Department, said that if she could leave one message with the public, it would be: “If you receive an eviction notice, don’t wait. Act right away.”

“It’s important that you get help and respond to an unlawful detainer within five days,” Ortega said.

LIFTOUT

“The city is taking unprecedented actions to keep Angelenos inside, and to make sure that landlords … do not go into foreclosure.”

— Mayor Karen Bass

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