Starting Aug. 1, landlords will have to pay relocation fees if their tenants are displaced by large rent hikes or certain types of notices to vacate.
The payments will be triggered by rent increases that surpass 10% in a given year or if a tenant in good standing is issued a notice to vacate for remodeling or other issues not related to a family member of the landlord taking the tenant’s place in the unit.
Tenant payouts will be calculated based on an average of like-sized apartments throughout the city, with studio relocation costs for landlords hitting about $2,700 per tenant and three-bedroom apartment relocation fees hitting $4,500.
A previous staff recommendation would have tied the cost of relocation assistance to the ZIP code where the unit was located, but community members raised concern over the inequality of renters in more affluent areas getting more assistance.
The payments will apply to all renters. Seniors who are displaced could be compensated even more from a yet-to-be-determined city fund that would provide them an additional $2,000. A preliminary assessment by the city estimates that establishing such a fund could cost about $2.5 million.
While the ordinance will not go into effect until Aug. 1, some tenants have said that the mere discussion of it has already had impacts on the rental rates in the city, with one coming to the City Council meeting Tuesday night to say that the ordinance resulted in an eviction notice for her and some of her neighbors.
“They did not give us the option to pay more rent,” she said. “They just have evicted us—and they’re doing it on July 25 so we would not be covered by the Aug. 1 bill. We all might be homeless for a while until we can save some money to get first and last month’s rent.”
While some have been critical of the policy as merely putting a price on displacement, others said that it would keep people in their homes and make it harder for wholesale displacement to occur.
“This ordinance will help prevent homelessness, period,” said Elsa Tung, a research and policy analyst with Long Beach Forward, a community organization that had helped push for the passage of the tenant relocation assistance policy.
Landlords who own one property with four units or less or live in one of the units would be exempt from having to pay relocation assistance to tenants.
While Tuesday night’s vote was a formality—the ordinance had undergone months of scrutiny and discussion—landlords again warned that it would place onerous restrictions on who they could allow to rent their units and would further increase the cost of living in the city as they would work in the relocation assistance fees into the monthly rent they charge.
Joani Weir, a landlord with multiple properties in the city and a staunch opponent of policies aimed at regulating housing, said that the policy would inevitably be harmful tenants and pointed to rent control policies in cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica as examples of cities passing housing policies that eventually lead to skyrocketing rental costs.
“The real loser is going to be the tenants because they’re going to be the ones to lose their housing,” Weird said. “And you guys can take the blame for it because they’re going to lose their housing because you pushed policy that isn’t going to keep you in your homes.”