Councilman says L.A.’s coronavirus eviction ban doesn’t go far enough, but federal help is needed to do more

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Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell attends a City Hall news conference in February 2018. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell attends a City Hall news conference in February 2018. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Ferrell sent a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday, asking them to develop a federal plan for rent and mortgage forgiveness in their next aid package.

The message was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, both of California, as many Angelenos’ rents came due for the first time since businesses statewide were shuttered by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay at home order. Tenant activist groups across the country organized rent strikes, calling for payments not to be just delayed but waived altogether.

O’Farrell says renters account for more than 80% of households in his 13th District — which covers Hollywood, Silver Lake, Atwater Village and Echo Park — and more than half of all households across the city. With the U.S. economy “virtually shut down,” his constituents fear they will be unable to pay for housing.

“We will have a large universe of renters who will be without any income for weeks or months struggling to stay housed, as well as property owners who aren’t receiving rent to cover their mortgages,” O’Farrell wrote. “There will be instances where income will return much too slowly to keep pace with the ability to repay rents and mortgages long after emergency orders are lifted.”

California unemployment claims jumped to nearly 879,000 last week, more than twice the number in any other state. And, citing an estimate from the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, the Los Angeles Times reported that as many as 30% of Americans with home loans could default on their payments if business closures continue through the summer.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti last month banned landlords from evicting tenants affected by the outbreak, and the City Council extended the protections by giving residential tenants 12 months to pay back what they owe after the emergency order is lifted — but they’ll still have to pay the full amount. And, the burden will fall on renters to prove they suffered because of the virus.

The mayor has also suspended rent increases on already units covered by the city’s rent control measure.

Protesters gathered outside Garcetti’s house in Windsor Square Wednesday, calling on him to “Freeze all rents,” according to the L.A. Times.

O’Farrell said he agrees the city’s moves don’t go far enough, but “without federal assistance we are limited in our ability to do much more.”

He called on Congress to develop a plan “not unlike the big federal banking and auto industry bailouts” during the last recession.

“We are staring into the abyss,” he wrote.

Tenants and landlords with questions on the city’s COVID-19 eviction protections can call a hotline at 866-557-7368 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

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