Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon called Wednesday for the passage of a one-year moratorium on rent increases for more than 600,000 apartments across the city, saying the economic downturn has hurt families living in those buildings.
Appearing with a room full of renters' rights advocates, Alarcon said his proposal would block landlords from imposing the 3% rent increase that would be allowed on July 1 under the city's rent stabilization ordinance. That ordinance applies to an estimated 630,000 apartment units built before 1978.
For renters that do not pay gas and electricity bills, rent could go up by as much as 5%. Alarcon said his colleagues should support his moratorium since they have been speaking out against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan for four consecutive electric increases at the Department of Water and Power.
"If they block the increase in DWP rates, then they should block this [rent] increase," he said.
Alarcon said he and two other council members – Herb Wesson and Janice Hahn – have been pressing ahead with efforts to resurrect a compromise electric rate hike that was approved by the council two weeks ago but rejected by Villaraigosa's appointees on the DWP board.
The councilman said he believed he could get support from eight other council members to send a 4.5% electric rate hike to the DWP board.
One business group, the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., immediately denounced Alarcon's call for a rent moratorium.
"Los Angeles already places an unreasonable number of regulations on business owners," said Edgar Khalatian, chairman of the the group's land use committee. "This is yet another unfair burden on property owners who are struggling to avoid foreclosure proceedings."
Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, disagreed. He said rent hikes in Los Angeles should be in line with the inflation rate. Such a system would allow landlords to pass rising costs onto their tenants.
Since that rate in Los Angeles was below zero last year, rent increases should not be allowed this year, Gross said.
"Without this moratorium, injustice will continue to prevail," Gross said.
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall