Lead Story West Edition

Inglewood OKs permanent rent control measure

INGLEWOOD – Seeking to protect longtime residents from being priced out of development-rich Inglewood, the City Council on June 11 approved a rent control measure that limits rent increases for most residents living in apartments in the city.

 After six months of debate that included 45- and 60-day emergency rent control ordinances, city leaders said now was the right time to bring permanent relief to Inglewood, a city of 110,000 people, most of whom are renters.

The new ordinance limits rent increases to not more than 5% a year for most renters living in buildings that have four or more apartments and were built before Feb. 1, 1995. It also sets a “just cause” policy that protects renters from receiving 60-day eviction notices, except for criminality, drug use or failure to pay rent.

The measure also would, in some cases, mandate that property owners offer relocation allowances to renters who cannot afford the higher rent.

A soon-to-be-formed formed housing commission will monitor the implementation of the ordinance, officials said.

Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said he believes the new rent stabilization ordinance will set the standard for the region and the nation.

“We’ve set what we believe is a really appropriate threshold that’s affordable,” he said. “In addition to that, we’ve made provisions for the mom and pop (owners) that have kept their rents low of a high threshold that they can raise their rents to.”

While widely applauded, the new ordinance does carry some restrictions, including allowing property owners to raise rents by as much as 8% if city inspectors show that the building needs $10,000 or more in major repairs.

Under another exception, landlords may raise rents up to 8% – without offering relocation allowances – if they can prove that the tenant’s rent is less than 80 percent of market rental rate in Inglewood – now about $1,770 a month.

Landlords who wish to raise rents above 5%, but who do not meet those two exceptions, must offer tenants a relocation fee of at least $5,310 to move – as long as the tenant has lived on the property for at least two years.

Longtime resident Julia Wallace criticized the relocation allowance plan, calling it merely “a consolation to move people out.”

The rent control issue began percolating in 2015 when officials announced that the city’s Hollywood Park stadium would house the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers football teams. The issue stirred again last year when the Los Angeles Clippers announced that they would build a new arena nearby – presumably spiking property values and rental costs even further.

Critics and civic activists said then that city officials were not doing enough to protect the interests of longtime residents who could not afford to stay in Inglewood and share in the pending dividends.

In response to the controversy, officials began considering rent control legislation, ultimately adopting an emergency measure in March. Officials extended that measure in April, promising to revisit the issue this month.

While most observers support the city’s action, some opponents believe rent control ultimately will stifle free market forces by abating the rise of property values and curtailing development by investors.

“Historically, rent control has always been a bad idea,” said Chike Nweke, president of the Inglewood Board of Realtors. Nweke said, however, that he supports basic tenant protections.

Civic activist Jelani Hendrix, a frequent critic of city officials on the rent control issue, said while the ordinance is not perfect, it’s a good start.

“Thank you to the city and the mayor for taking a step in the right direction,” said Hendrix, an organizer with the civic group, Uplift Inglewood Coalition. “Although I don’t agree with everything in the ordinance, it will stabilize some tenants in the city.”