Activists want all LA renters included under rent hike moratorium

Some renters'-rights groups say the Los Angeles City Council isn't doing enough to deliver relief to tenants in rent-controlled properties. The council recently voted to ban rent hikes for more than half a million apartment buildings. Activists say the council's proposal unfairly protects landlords of multiple small buildings who represent themselves as "mom and pop" operators.

In a drizzling rain, members of the Housing as a Human Right Collective assembled in front of a four-unit apartment building in Los Angeles. They did so to weigh in on the L.A. City Council's vote against rent increases for apartment buildings with more than five units. That affects about 630,000 rental properties.

The plan allows landlords who manage properties with fewer than five units to impose the usual 3 percent rent increase on July 1. Council members say they want to protect "mom and pop" landlords. Activist Elizabeth Blaney says the council should know who these "mom and pop" landlords really are.

"Landlords like Fernando Salcedo who's the owner of this building that we're standing in front of,” Blaney said. “As well as Frank McHugh who has charges against him by the city for the slum conditions that he has, and you can see here on this list to my right all the properties that they own. These would be considered 'mom and pop' by Janice Hahn's definition. And that's a problem for tenants."

Activists offer another definition of "mom and pop" – a landlord who maintains a single property with four or fewer apartment units, who lives in the building, and who doesn't have any code violations.

Landlord Jai Foster says that any way you slice it, the rent hike ban would be unfair. Foster owns several properties in Los Angeles, but she doesn't fall under the "mom and pop" guidelines the City Council defined.

"It's not right when you are forced to subsidize other people's living, when you get no subsidy,” said Foster. “Now it's one thing to say if we are helping your tenants, we're going to help you. But they're not doing that. Let's be fair.”

Foster said she'll attend every city council debate on the issue to tell members the ordinance is unfair to landlords. The L.A. City Council expects to debate the issue later this week.

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