Originally published on July 13, 2020
The city of Los Angeles’ rent relief program launches today, with $103 million in its coffers, and intense demand amid a deep recession and worsening pandemic.
The program, administered by the city’s Housing and Community Investment Department, will accept applications from today at 8 a.m. until Friday at midnight. To qualify, tenants need to live in multifamily rental housing in L.A., have suffered a hit to their income from COVID-19, and make less than 80% the area median income — in Los Angeles, that’s $83,500 for a family of four.
The city estimates that 50,000 households in L.A. will benefit from the relief. The department will select them after the application period closes. The system is not first-come first-served, so families that apply on Monday and Thursday should stand an equal chance of being selected.
Qualifying households will see up to $2,000 in rent relief, with a maximum of $1,000 per month. That money will flow directly to landlords.
Advocates for low-income tenants welcome the help, but remain skeptical. “$103 million sounds like a lot of money,” said Greg Spiegel of the Inner City Law Center. But in a region with a huge shortage of affordable housing and where low-income renters were already severely rent-burdened, “it doesn’t get near to addressing the need,” he added. In fact, $2,000 may not be a full months’ rent for many households.
Spiegel would like to see the city’s effort paired with tenant outreach and education. “Rent, when it’s just one month’s worth, just holds it off — suspends the death sentence for a month later. What we really need are the resources in place to defend evictions,” he said.
In accepting money from the city, landlords will agree to forgo interest on late fees and rent, to not evict the tenant for six months after the city’s local emergency expires, and to not increase rent for a year after the emergency declaration ends.
The effort revived a 2019 fund to assist struggling renters. Initially funded with $2.2 million, the program received a massive boost when the city added $100 million in federal stimulus dollars, a move City Council President Nury Martinez called “an economic lifeline.”
L.A.’s is the largest rent relief program in the country. Like the Angeleno Cards that provided cash assistance, which saw intense demand in April, the rent relief fund will not ask about citizenship status.
— AARON MENDELSON