L.A. City Council approves ordinance extending rent hike freeze amid coronavirus crisis

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A Los Angeles ordinance extending a freeze on rent increases from 60 days to one year following the coronavirus pandemic emergency period was approved Wednesday by the City Council.

The measure heads to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who will need to sign it in order for the further extended rent freeze to become law.

The order impacts nearly 625,000 apartment units covered by L.A.’s rent control measure.

When it was initially signed by Garcetti on March 30, the ordinance prevented landlords of such buildings from hiking rent for the duration of the emergency period and the 60 days that followed, according to a news release from L.A. City Councilman David Ryu’s office.

Ryu introduced the new amendment to extend that freeze for a year past the end of the emergency period.

“We are not just in a public health emergency, we are in an economic emergency,” he said in the news release. “It’s not just about providing relief now — but building the road to recovery.”

Californians have been hit particularly hard by the devastating economic consequences caused by the pandemic.

Since around mid-March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom began ordering businesses the state deemed nonessential to close to help slow the spread of the COVID-19, over 4 million residents have applied for unemployment insurance.

The state has distributed about $10.6 billion in benefits during the crisis, including $2 billion since this past Sunday, Newsom said at his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday.

But some have argued even rent freezes don’t go far enough to help struggling residents and have called for such payments to be canceled outright during the pandemic.

Even as some businesses in L.A. and across the state prepare to reopen Friday, Ryu acknowledged the financial challenges ahead for many, citing it as a reason for the need to halt rent hikes.

“When this emergency passes, millions of Angelenos will be left with more debt and fewer job opportunities,” he said. “The least we can do is ensure that they don’t face a rent increase while they’re trying to get back on their feet.”

The rent control measure covers most apartments built in the city before 1978. A state law known as Costa Hawkins restricts cities from expanding rent control or rent increase freezes to newer buildings, according to the release.

On Wednesday, the City Council unanimously voted for a resolution calling for the suspension of the statewide law. Ryu and other councilmembers have also called on the governor to halt Costa Hawkins amid the pandemic.

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