A Los Angeles City Council committee voted 3-2 last week against extending the existing pandemic-related rent increase freeze that is set to expire January 31, 2024.

The five-member Housing and Homeless Committee instead approved a proposal to allow smaller rent increases for properties that fall under 1979’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

The amendment to the freeze extension proposal by Hugo Soto-Martinez was made by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and requests the city attorney, with the assistance of the Housing Department, draft an ordinance that would temporarily set increases for rent-controlled units from Feb. 1 to June 30, 2024.

Blumenfield cited the legality of extending the freeze in introducing the amendment. “The rent freeze proposal by council member Soto Martinez raised legal, practical, and fairness concerns,” a Blumenfield spokesperson said in a statement.

Soto-Martinez’s original motion to extend the freeze pointed to landlords’ ability to raise prices from February 1, 2024 through June 30, 2024 by as much as 7% with an additional 1% for gas and 1% for electricity if the landlord provides that service for the tenant.

The Blumenfield amendment would end the freeze, but cap the amount of permissible increases for rent-controlled units for the same period of time at 4%.

Rent hikes would be calculated using a formula outlined in the city’s rent control law, using the consumer price index from October 2022 to September 2023 instead of from October 2021 to September 2022.

According to Blumenfield, using the most recent consumer price index the formula achieves the 4% increase instead of the original 7%.

“This is a very difficult spot that we’re in,” Blumenfield told City News Service. “And I’m very sympathetic to both sides — trying to figure out how we can, in effect, create a compromise that nobody’s going to like, but will move us forward in a way.”

He added, “If we do nothing, [rent] potentially goes up by 7%, and if it goes to the council it can stay at zero. So, there’s a risk on all sides.”

Westside Current