Affordable housing development High Place East (Daniel Archuleta)

CITY HALL — After a long discussion about some of the larger issues facing renters earlier in last week’s City Council meeting, council tackled some smaller renters’ issues later in the night.

Council unanimously approved two pro-renter items — one aimed at protecting Section 8 tenants from discrimination and the other aimed at protecting affordable housing tenants who are ousted when a developer decides to replace their building.

The first item directed city officials to “prepare an ordinance or other means to protect households who have received a rent subsidy from the City of Santa Monica, including Section 8 or Shelter Plus Care, from income source discrimination, including landlord refusal to accept vouchers.”

Denise McGranahan, an attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, told a story about representing a tenant in a case against Donald Sterling, property owner and disgraced former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

“She was an existing tenant in rent control and he refused her voucher and we litigated it to the California Supreme Court and we didn’t prevail because we had to use reasonable accommodations and we had to talk about source of income in the state level,” she told council. “I really think that there are tenants like that – elderly, disabled, and on fixed incomes – who really are getting slowly priced out of their homes.”

McGranahan spoke in favor of the item.

“We’re going to have to do some research,” City Attorney Marsha Moutrie told council, “if what this is intended to do is to require landlords to accept Section 8 tenants.”

“As one of the preparers of this, that’s not the intent,” responded Mayor Kevin McKeown. “It’s to protect those tenants who are using Section 8 to the extent that we can.”

Attorneys will come back next year with options for council.

Augmenting state law

On Jan. 1, a new state law, AB 2222, will go into effect requiring developers who seek to replace affordable housing units to build more affordable housing.

“Well that’s wonderful,” said McKeown. “But what happens to the people who lived in that old affordable housing? That’s not covered by the state law. What we’re asking staff to do here is to develop a plan to augment that state law that says that housing has to be replaced by seeing if we can’t give some local protection to those tenants who have been displaced.”

Evicted tenants, he suggested, would be first in line to get back into those affordable units once construction is completed.

“We might also look at ways to require some kind of interim housing support from the developers so that person isn’t forced entirely out of our community never to return,” McKeown said.

City attorneys will come back with a plan in the new year.

“We’d like to do this as soon as possible,” McKeown said, noting AB 2222’s looming enactment.

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