Angelenos are hanging on to their homes when they can.
Angelenos are hanging on to their homes when they can.

Are Evictions in L.A. as Widespread as They Seem?

A new analysis of eviction rates nationwide concludes that things just aren't that bad in Los Angeles, where residents gripe loudly about gentrification, displacement and rising rents.

Apartment List looked at its own 41,000-response renter survey, which spans three years through 2017, to conclude that L.A. ranked fourth for the lowest eviction rates among the nation's 50 largest metro areas. The study is called "Rental Insecurity."

"You often hear a lot about gentrification and displacement, and I don't want to distract from their importance," says Apartment List housing economist Chris Salviati. "But the L.A. area has a strong economy with high median income, so eviction numbers are offset by that."

L.A.'s Coalition for Economic Survival this week released figures showing residents of 22,484 rent-control apartments in the city have been evicted since 2001. The nonprofit's executive director, Larry Gross, says the biggest trigger is the legal extraction of tenants in order to rebuild and raise the rent.

He's not buying the Apartment List analysis, calling it "faulty." "We know from court eviction records that people are being displaced in large numbers in L.A.," he says.

The analysis found that L.A. has an overall eviction rate of 1.9 percent (the fraction of residents being booted); with low-income households (those that see $30,000 or less in a year) it's 2.9 percent, according to data provided by Apartment List. The analysis covers L.A. and Orange County.

Salviati says that's one of the reasons the eviction rate appears to be low: The study's coverage area includes wealthy suburbs and coastline areas that aren't as bad off as the inner-city.

"That overall rate is well below the national average of 3.3 percent," he says. "There are likely certain areas in L.A.'s urban core where evictions are more prevalent. The rates also incorporate wealthy suburbs where evictions are rare."

He also made some arguments that Gross agrees with:

  • Los Angeles' housing market is so tight that folks who might normally make good candidates for eviction aren't even able to rent a place. In other words, credit scores and other requirements are through the roof for would-be renters, and landlords are in a position to choose the most creditworthy people. That's been the case for a number of years. These folks are less likely to be evicted.
  • L.A.'s massive and growing homeless population doesn't rent, and therefore won't face eviction.
  • It's more difficult to evict someone in cities, such as Los Angeles, that have rent control or so-called rent stabilization. San Francisco, another rent-control town, also ranked among the cities (it was second) with the lowest eviction rates. Those metros also tended to have higher-than average incomes.
  • And, Salviati says, rent is getting so high that people will often do anything to hang on to an apartment. "Rents are growing so fast people want to hang on to their place the best they can," he says.

True that.

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