Lead Story Uncategorized West Edition

Inglewood council OKs ordinance restricting rent increases

INGLEWOOD – The City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance March 5 to limit rent increases to 5 percent a year on certain residential properties in the city.

The emergency ordinance, which applies to apartments and rental units built before Feb. 1, 1995, will be in effect for 45 days, with the option to extend the emergency ordinance for an additional 10 months, officials said.

While the emergency ordinance is in effect, no residents will be evicted except for criminality, drug use or failure to pay rent, officials said.

The issue surfaced after several residents and civic activists complained of hefty rent increases – in one case, a 150 percent increase – by property owners. That nearly $1,500 rent hike went viral on social media in December 2018, catching the eye of Mayor James T. Butts, who negotiated the increase down to 28 percent.

The following month, officials created an online survey urging residents to submit documentation of rent increases of more than 20 percent. Officials received 18 submissions, Butts said, with residents reporting an average rent increase of 53 percent.

That information prompted the city to act, Butts said.

“I came to the conclusion after looking at the survey results that something needed to be done, particularly after becoming personally involved,” Butts said.

“It was clear that we have to figure out something that respects the property rights of owners but gives options to tenants that can’t afford a rental increase,” he added. “We’ll figure out a balance between that.”

The rent control issue emerged after officials announced that the Hollywood Park stadium would house the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers.

Many residents see the stadium development as the spark for rising property values and rental costs in Inglewood, where more than 60 percent of residents are renters. As a result, they say, rents are increasingly unaffordable for longtime residents.

Butts said if the temporary moratorium was not imposed now, the safety and welfare of citizens could be threatened because landlords could significantly boost rents before officials adopted permanent restrictions or tenant relocation measures.

During the 45-day moratorium, officials will produce a report on the rising cost of rent and present it to City Council, officials said.

Since the issue surfaced last year, civic leaders have been petitioning officials to pass a rent control ordinance so longtime Inglewood residents will not be priced out of developments in a city they’ve stayed loyal to for years.

“We ask the city to adopt a comprehensive, permanent rent stabilization ordinance,” said Jelani Hendrix of Uplift Inglewood, a civic organization that recently drafted its own rent stabilization proposal after calling for rent control for years.

Activists also have proposed other strategies that could make living affordable for longtime residents, including incentives for first-time homebuyers and new zoning that sets aside affordable housing in new developments.

During the recent City Council meeting, Butts said he’d be willing to review Uplift Inglewood’s proposed rent stabilization ordinance to assess its viability.

“The reason you have something temporary is because you want time to figure out what to do permanently,” he said. “You govern based upon facts and a careful assessment of the issues. Most issues are not binary. They’re not black and white.”

Civic organizers also are calling on city officials to continue reaching out to renters and property owners to educate them about new ordinances and measures regulating rent increases in the city.