Union de Vecinos, the Eastside local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, is leading a march through Boyle Heights on Sunday, October 1, to protest the Housing Department’s proposed rent increases and what they say is the City Council’s inaction to prevent evictions, displacement, homelessness, and landlord abuse.
The LA Housing Department proposed 7% annual rent increases for all rent stabilized units in the city of Los Angeles, and if a landlord pays a form of utilities, tenants can expect a nearly 9% annual increase. That increase, which would go into effect in February, is nearly triple what the allowed annual rent increase was pre-pandemic.
Leonardo Vilchis-Zarate, a volunteer organizer with Union de Vecinos, said that for tenants on a fixed income, the hike in rent can be more than what some tenants can afford, especially for renters still recovering from financial hardships brought on by the pandemic.
“This huge increase is going to affect a lot of families,” Vilchis-Zarate said. “It’s going to affect a lot of people. We already have a housing crisis where people can’t afford the rent and are ending up on the streets and it’s going to contribute more to that crisis as well.”
The march on Sunday is slated to start at 10 a.m. on the corner of 4th and St. Louis at Hollenbeck Park. The march will make stops at Kevin de Leon and the Housing Department’s office on 1st St., where protestors will give testimonies about the lack of support offered to residents of Boyle Heights.
Protestors also plan to close a “vital intersection” to stage a performance to voice their demands, according to Union de Vecinos and the Los Angeles Tenants Union’s press release issued on Sept. 27th.
Some of the demands include stopping evictions and rent increases, creating accommodations for elderly people, promoting sanitary and safe living conditions and to stop the demolition of existing housing.
CD-14 has the highest amount of evictions in the city of Los Angeles, with 6,798 notices being issued to tenants from February 2023 to August 2023 according to new data from the LA City Controller.
Los Angeles’ rent control law generally covers rental housing units built before Oct. 1, 1978. The city has banned rent increases in rent-controlled housing since the start of the pandemic, but the ban will expire on Jan. 31. Allowable rent increases are calculated based on the area’s consumer price index; before the pandemic, when inflation was lower, those increases were at about 3%. Now that inflation is higher, steeper hikes are calculated.
A state law passed last year caps rate increases at 8.8% until the end of July and can go up as much as 10% in August.
Vilchis-Zarate recognizes that many tenants aren’t aware of their rights and established protections and deems Sunday’s protest necessary to amplify the concerns of local residents and educate those who aren’t aware of the power they hold as renters in Los Angeles.
“The type of support that tenants need isn’t being met by a social media post or an ad on TV or an ad on a bus or an agency that’s far away from them,” Vilchis-Zarate said. “So that’s why we go to tenants in the buildings where they live to help them understand their rights and help them employ those rights, because sometimes the landlords in the city don’t really enforce them and don’t care.”