LA County Board approves plan to provide rent subsidies during pandemic

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to allocate additional emergency funding to assist struggling renters, and is set to consider expanding tenant protections during the COVID-19 crisis.

Supervisor Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis asked their colleagues to support setting up an emergency rental assistance program with Community Development Block Grant funds they hope will be provided as part of the next round of the federal CARES Act.

The program as envisioned would provide rent subsidies of up to $1,000 per month for up to three months for families who have recently lost jobs, though the details have yet to be worked out. The overall level of funding will depend on how much money is allocated by the federal government and whether that can be matched, in part, by private dollars.

“As we fight the spread of this virus and do everything we can to save lives, this crisis has devastated families who were already living on the brink of poverty,” Hahn said. “The eviction moratorium we have in place has provided some relief, but many families are going to struggle to pay back the rent they owe after this crisis is over.”

More than 55% of Los Angeles County residents are renters and the county has one of the lowest homeownership rates in the state, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl added.

“It is really critical that we help,” Kuehl said. “This is also a way to help our landlords.”

The board directed the county’s legislative advocates to press the federal government for more CDBG funds to be used for this purpose. Other staffers were directed to source private dollars to further boost the fund’s capabilities.

On March 31, the board ratified a ban on evictions for non-payment of rent and also prohibited rent increases through the end of May in unincorporated areas of the county. Long Beach has allowed renters to postpone paying rent if they’re affected by the pandemic.

Solis and Kuehl co-authored a separate motion being considered Tuesday to expand protections, “preserve and increase housing security and stability and to prevent Los Angeles County residents from falling into homelessness due to this crisis.”

The motion proposes extending the earlier ban on evictions to cover all jurisdictions in the county “to the extent permitted by state law” and “with considerations for cities that already have local eviction moratoria in place.” How those considerations might modify the ban was not immediately clear.

If approved, the expanded moratorium on evictions would also cover mobile home owners in unincorporated areas who rent the space their homes occupy.

The motion also includes a prohibition on rent increases in rent stabilized units in unincorporated areas of the county through May 31.

Finally, it prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for housing pets or unauthorized persons during the COVID-19 emergency and extends there payment period for rent from six to 12 months after the end of the moratorium.

“Even though renters impacted by COVID-19 won’t be evicted for not paying their rent, they’ll still have to pay back the rent that they owe,” Hahn said during discussion of the rental assistance fund, calling that an almost impossible hurdle for some families to meet.

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