Can Landlords Be Forced Not to Tear Down Affordable Apartments?

Can Landlords Be Forced Not to Tear Down Affordable Apartments?
Corey Miller/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

Los Angeles is rife with reports of people getting kicked out of their homes at the worst time, as rents in the city are the least affordable in America.

The evictions often involve the state Ellis Act, which allows landlords to get rid of rent-control tenants if they plan to tear down their buildings to construct for-sale houses or otherwise turn them into condos.

Of course, many people who have lived in rent-control units for years or even decades simply can't afford today's rents. In a city where the per-capita income ($27,749) won't even get you a median-priced one-bedroom apartment, getting kicked out of a rent-control home could mean instant homelessness.

L.A. city Councilman Paul Koretz wants to explore ways of slowing down Ellis Act evictions.

A recent proposal asks housing, planning and building and safety officials to explore the following:

Putting an annual cap on rent-control evictions; creating more red tape for landlords who want to convert to condos; using zoning incentives to replace demolished units; and limiting the use of subdivisions to convert rent-control units to for-sale homes.

The ideas might have to spend some time in the City Attorney's Office, however. Attempts to thwart the Ellis Act, a state law, could end up in court.

Koretz, meanwhile, notes that kicked-out tenants face "increased rents in what has been called the least affordable housing market in the United States."

He says that Ellis Act demolitions and conversions can destroy an "existing sense of community" in L.A. neighborhoods.

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell backs the proposal, saying:

The housing crisis is real in Los Angeles, and the result is high levels of rent burden, overcrowded dwellings and interminable commutes for those forced out of the city. In addition to my work in creating a dedicated revenue source to fix the shortage of affordable housing units, this "outside the box" thinking will help keep more residents in the heart of Los Angeles. We need to strike a balance between new development and the loss of older housing stock.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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