California recipe for more homelessness

Homeless tents in Los Angeles on December 6, 2022


Federico J. Brown/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

La La Land is truly a paradise, at least for people who don’t want to pay rent. Los Angeles County this week extended its Covid eviction ban another two months. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council has passed rules that will make it harder for landlords to evict tenants once (and if) the county’s moratorium ends.

The Supreme Court struck down the Biden Administration’s Covid eviction ban in August 2021, but L.A. counties and cities have extended theirs time and time again even as other pandemic restrictions have been lifted. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had last extended the ban until the end of January due to a “respiratory illness trifecta.”

Now that the winter viruses are waning, progressives are calling for a homelessness epidemic. As one activist said, “It’s simple: Tenant protection is homelessness prevention.” Not really. Public encampments have increased during the county’s eviction ban, and most of the homeless suffer from mental illness or drug addiction that requires more than a roof.

The eviction ban simply allows tenants to live rent-free and not work. It is notable that the Los Angeles County workforce has been cut by 275,000 during the pandemic. The moratorium has also contributed to rising rents by restricting the supply of available housing and discouraging investment and maintenance by owners.

Many tenants will not have paid rent for three years by the time the county’s last extension ends. Those who have must feel like fools. The same is true for homeowners who have had to continue paying property taxes, utilities, insurance, and mortgage interest. The government has stolen their income and control of their property.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council voted last week to pass “just cause” eviction protections that will require landlords to pay tenants relocation assistance equal to three times the “fair market rent”—$1,747 per a one-bedroom apartment—plus $1,411 in moving expenses if rent increases by more than 10% in a year. This is rent control by another name.

As a result, many LA homeowners will not be able to recover their losses from the three-year eviction ban. This is a recipe for fewer places to rent and more homelessness.

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It appeared in the print issue of January 28, 2023.