50 OCTOBER 2019 • WWW.AAGLA.ORG Local Advocacy Update As the long summer days draw to a close and autumn arrives, local governments such as the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica and West Hollywood have been working on advancing a number of issues of concern: permanent rent control, eviction defense programs, expansion of relocation fees and minimum one- year lease requirements. These issues and many others affecting the multifamily rental housing industry will continue to be introduced and we must work together to ensure that industry concerns are heard. I urge our members to continually participate in the legislative process whether it be calling or sending an email to council members or attending a city council or committee meeting, your voice and insight play a vital advocacy role. City of Los Angeles Empty Homes Penalty / Vacant and Habitable Housing Unit. On Wednesday, September 18th, the City Council unanimously advanced a motion directing staff to report on the amount of vacant, habitable housing units in the City, and examine Empty Homes penalties, vacancy taxes, and speculator taxes in other jurisdictions. In addition, staff were directed to report back with different policy options to reduce the number of vacant units within the City. At the prior August 28th Housing Committee meeting, several amendments were added to the motion. Council Member Bonin requested that the study include information obtained from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP). Council Member Krekorian requested that as part of the study, staff also identify the reasons why units remain vacant so that any policy advanced includes a remedy to those specific issues. Further, he requested that when staff report back on the study, that they provide options to incentivize productive use of such units such as for long-term and emergency housing for the homeless or those on the verge of homelessness and voucher holders. During the City Council meeting, several Council Members spoke regarding the motion including Mike Bonin, David E. Ryu, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian and Gilbert Cedillo, all of whom spoke in support of the motion and need to assess and obtain the actual number of vacant units in the City in order to advance the goal of developing policies that will help make those units available for occupancy. This proposal stems from the Council’s desire to advance a broad range of measures to address homelessness and the need for affordable housing. Council Member Bonin indicated that there are tens of thousands of vacant units within the City of Los Angeles. Additionally, he referenced several jurisdictions that have adopted vacancy taxes including Vancouver and Oakland. Council Members Krekorian and Cedillo both noted the importance of identifying the reasons why a unit remains vacant so that appropriate policies can be recommended. The motion that was advanced is specifically to assess the number of vacant units in the city, policy options to reduce vacancies and incentivize productive use based on the underlying reasoning for the vacancy. Once the study is conducted and staff report back to the Committee, of importance is how the study defines a vacant unit, whether it distinguishes vacancies by building type, as new buildings take longer to fill vacancies, and other factors such as the Ellis Act which requires units to remain vacant for five years. We will continue to monitor the issue, advocate on behalf of our members and provide updates once staff concludes the study and reports back on this matter. Right to Counsel/Eviction Defense. Discussions have continued among relevant City agencies and City Council relative to a motion advanced by Council Member Paul Koretz for the establishment of a Right to Counsel ordinance and related eviction prevention programs. In September, it is anticipated that staff from the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID+LA) will report back to the Housing Committee with their findings and recommendations for the city’s “right to counsel” ordinance. On a related matter, on September 18th, the City Council advanced a motion for the scheduling of a hearing to obtain stakeholder comments regarding how the City should prioritize and expend Homeless Housing, LOCAL GOVERNMENT UPDATE By Danielle Leidner-Peretz, Esq., Director, Government Affairs & External Relations