Landlords may soon be limited in the monthly rent increases they can apply to some Santa Ana residents, as the current housing affordability crisis becomes an increasingly central point in city politics.

Santa Ana residents living on leases can also get formal city-wide eviction protections – as well as financial assistance from the city to fight evictions in court.

It all depends on how the majority of Santa Ana City Council members approach the issue of rent control, what’s known as a “just-for-cause” eviction order, and how much the legal defense is funded against. expulsion when they all show up for a vote at the public council meeting. Tuesday.

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The idea of ​​rent control has been circulating among community activists and city officials for years, but – with the exception of a temporary freeze on rent increases during the pandemic – never became law. consistent due to a historical lack of support for the idea on the platform.

While community organizers have in the past crafted their own ordinances or unsuccessfully called for such a policy in council, Tuesday marks the first time the issue of rent control has been officially placed on the Santa City Council agenda. Ana for a vote.

The ordinance would ban rent increases for residents – including those in mobile homes – at 3% per year or 80% of the change in the consumer price index, whichever is less, in the city. .

The rent cap will only apply to buildings built in 1995 or earlier.

And the rent cap for mobile homes will only apply to those established in 1990 or earlier, regardless of the owner.

Still, city staff in their report attached to the meeting’s agenda said the ordinance would go beyond the current statewide rent increase cap known to be 5%. under the name of Assembly Law 1482, “and the protections provided for in this ordinance are more restrictive than those stated. in AB 1482.

Although a landlord who argues that the rent caps in the order prevent him from receiving “a fair and reasonable return on his property,” may seek “ceiling relief,” according to the staff report.

The landlord should prove the financial burden imposed by the ordinance and also inform tenants that they are seeking to exempt the building from the rent control ordinance. Tenants would have 30 days from notification to respond.

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The outcome of Tuesday’s debate, on paper, could go one of two ways:

A qualified majority of city council members – five out of seven – could enact the rent control ordinance as an emergency ordinance, meaning it would go into effect almost immediately.

If the board does not have the five votes for it, a simple majority of four votes could still result in the same policy, but that would not take effect until 30 days after a second vote to approve the policy.

Either way, council could also vote to guide further study on “the additional regulatory framework and infrastructure needed to implement residential rent stabilization, evictions for cause and other protections for tenants. faced with unstable housing, ”says the staff report.

And the council is expected to allow city manager Kristine Ridge on Tuesday to use up to $ 300,000 from the Revive Santa Ana plan – a spending plan funded by federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act – to create a eviction defense fund.

The possible move would be the latest housing policy that city council members have struggled with amid an ongoing debate over housing affordability in one of Orange County’s densest towns and the concerns raised by studies that have indicated that many residents cannot afford the average housing prices in the city.

For example, the council also plans to vote on rescinding a prior relaxation of the city’s housing opportunities ordinance, a policy requiring certain housing projects to create affordable units on-site or pay into a fund. reserved for the construction of affordable housing elsewhere.

Developers could start paying $ 15 per square foot again for projects without affordable housing on-site – a price set in the original version of the housing ordinance – compared to $ 5 in the current version of the law, as amended by another tip. majority last year.

This was the direction most council members seemed to give to city staff at their last meeting on September 7 – final direction on the matter before tasking City Hall with drafting an ordinance that again amends the ordinance. on housing for a council vote at least 4 weeks from then, probably longer.

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Meanwhile, the city of Santa Ana announced this week that it has distributed more than $ 16 million in total funding to 2,791 low-income households in Santa Ana who have suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

The city began its pandemic rental assistance program in May 2020, then capped at $ 1,500 per household. The amount was increased to $ 3,000 per household in August 2020, and then again to $ 5,500 in March 2021, according to an email sent on September 16 from the city.

The city also revised its rent assistance program in June 2021 to cover up to 100% of rent arrears for households in Santa Ana, according to the state.

Meanwhile, the expiration of the state’s pandemic-related ban on eviction is looming on the horizon, which is expected to end on September 30.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and a member of the Corps of Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @photherecord.

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