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Renters and their advocates head to L.A. City Hall to highlight unfair treatment from landlords

Los Angeles may be home to some of the most luxurious mansions in the world, but those sprawling estates don’t represent the living situations of the city’s majority.

On April 22, renters from in and around the city made it clear that they deserve more consideration than the city might be giving them.

Several hundred low-income renters and their supporters gathered at Los Angeles City Hall that day to protest rising rent costs and other housing practices that could force many residents from their homes.

As one demonstrator explained, Los Angeles is primarily a renting city: “We make up 66% of the city, yet we continue to face eviction, rising rents, threat of displacement from irresponsible development and loss of affordable housing.”

The group chanted and held up signs bearing messages like, “Renters make L.A. work. Let’s make L.A. work for renters.”

Renters received some support from the city after the passing of two motions. One will strengthen L.A.’s program for quality repairs in substandard housing; the other is meant to fight unfair rent increases by making landlords register their renting rates with the city.

Over the past year alone, rents in L.A. county have risen by $100 on average.

Yet life has been difficult for those who depend on low-income housing the past. According to Elena Popp of the Eviction Defense Network, around 70,000 evictions get filed in Los Angeles each year.

Concerns over eviction and increased rents are a reality for many city residents, who pay around 50% of their income just in rent, according to one such renter. His name is Ernesto Sanchez, and he’s been living in a studio apartment with his family ever since he was four years old.

Now 22 and studying chemistry at El Camino College, Sanchez explained that his family spends $500 per month on rent due to a housing law that has prevented increases. However, the landlord has threatened to raise rates in the building, causing Sanchez’s family and other tenants to panic.

Another issue stems from landlords who are selling their property to developers, who demolish them to make way for newer — and more expensive — buildings. While buildings with modern home plans may attract new business, they could leave a lot of people homeless.

Rising rents and fewer options keep people like Sanchez from moving into more suitable housing. Although more than 45% of Americans surveyed want to live within the boundaries of a particular school district, many find themselves priced out as rent increases continue.

Advocates for affordable housing say that the city has passed some good measures to protect residents, but that more needs to be done.

Mike Dennis of the East Los Angeles Community Corporation said that the measures are “very important steps,” but he also argued that “more aggressive action needs to be taken to address the housing crisis with no delay, because the housing crisis is real and it’s devastating working class neighborhoods.”

Dennis’s group also wants the city to do away with the state’s Ellis Act, which allows property owners to evict renters to rehabilitate buildings. He explained that this gives property owners an incentive to avoid maintaining their properties, so they can charge higher rates to new residents.