Ellis Act evictions in LA on the rise

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Evictions in Los Angeles through the Ellis Act rose 235 percent, according to recent figures from the LA Housing and Community Investment Department.

Landlords cleared out 725 apartments in 2014, compared to 308 the year before.

"We're slowly seeing a trend that started in 2009," says general manager Rushmore Cervantes.

The Ellis Act, passed by the state legislature in 1985, allows landlords to get out of the rental business by evicting their tenants from rent-controlled buildings, so long as they either sell the building, convert the units into condominiums, or let the building sit vacant for a minimum of five years.

Landlords don't typically use the Ellis Act to sell their property when the real-estate market is weak. When the market is strong, they can cash in. Not surprisingly, the data from the city shows that Ellis evictions were highest when the the housing market was strong. As the housing market rebounds in Los Angeles, Ellis evictions, once again are on the rise.

"A lot of these landlords are seeing this as their way out of the market, and this is a quick and easy way to do it," says USC's Raphael Bostic.

"Every rent-controlled tenant should be worried," warns Larry Gross from the Coalition for Economic Survival, "and it's going to get worse."

Gross says many of these evictions are happening in a Nike "swoosh" shape across Los Angeles – they span from Venice, cut through Hollywood and Koreatown, and encompass parts of Silver Lake and Echo Park. There is also a hotspot in the San Fernando Valley around Sherman Oaks, Studio City and Valley Village, which he says affects many who work in the entertainment industry.

"The number of SAG-AFTRA members that were being displaced," he says, "I hadn't seen anything like that."

Recent Ellis Act evictions are still a far cry from a peak in 2005 when landlords cleared out 5,425 units. However, Bostic says to expect numbers to climb in the coming years because of the strong housing market in Southern California, where demand greatly exceeds supply.

"This is just another sign that there's real pressure in affordable housing in Los Angeles," he says.

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