Housing In Brief: L.A. Mayoral Candidates Compare Plans To Address Homelessness

 Also, enormous NYC broker fees raise alarms.

Tents set up along a freeway in Los Angeles

A homeless encampment in Los Angeles. (Photo by Laurie Avocado / CC BY 2.0)

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L.A. Mayoral Candidates Lay Out Housing Plans

The upcoming Los Angeles mayoral election could have huge implications for the city’s unhoused population. Both candidates, congresswoman Karen Bass and billionaire real estate mogul Rick Caruso, sat down with the L.A. Times to go over their plans to address homelessness.

Caruso focuses mostly on temporary housing and plans to build tiny homes on vacant city-owned land and install “sleeping pods,” essentially small tent-like units, inside unused office buildings. His website also says that he plans to ramp up bans on sleeping in public places, laws he says are “selectively enforced,” and plans to conduct an audit on Proposition HHH, a ballot initiative that raised $1.2 billion in bonds for supportive housing but which has been criticized for building few of the promised units.

Bass plans to focus on permanent units in addition to transitional housing. She says she would cut red tape for emergency housing vouchers issued in the American Rescue Plan that have been disbursed too slowly, and she plans to lease entire apartment buildings and motels to transform them into supportive housing. She plans to increase the planned 2000 units built with Proposition HHH funds to 3000 by 2023.

Bass beat Caruso in the first round of the primary on June 7, but neither candidate won at least 50% of votes, triggering a second round of voting on Nov. 8. There are about 41,000 people experiencing street homelessness in Los Angeles, according to the Times, including people living in RVs, tents and other makeshift forms of shelter.

New York State Agency Plans to Close Rent Law Loophole

New York State’s Department of Homes and Community Renewal plans to close a loophole allowing landlords to combine rent-regulated apartments to raise rents, Gothamist reports.

In 2019, New York state passed rent reforms that closed most loopholes used by landlords to deregulate units. But the law did not include clear guidelines on combining those units. Landlords took advantage of the murky legal territory, combining market rate and regulated units into so-called “Frankenstein” apartments which were unregulated. The practice has led to chronic vacancies in some rent-regulated units, as landlords wait for two conjoining apartments to become vacant.

DHCR, which oversees the city’s 1 million rent regulated units, planned to issue regulations in 2020. But those plans were paused during the pandemic. The state only announced their new guidance, which would restrict landlords from boosting the rent of a combined unit beyond the cumulative rent of the original units, after an August report from Gothamist. The state will hold a public hearing on Nov. 15 to gather input before the rule change goes into effect.

New York Lawmakers Vow To Address Broker Fees

Two New York elected officials, state senator Jabari Brisport and Council member Carlina Rivera, signaled to Gothamist that they may revisit legislation to cap broker’s fees in New York City. The 2019 rent reform laws included a provision capping application fees at $20 but made no specific mention of brokers. New York’s Department of State issued a guidance in February 2020 interpreting this as a ban on broker’s fees – but that only lasted a week before a lawsuit from the Real Estate Board of New York reinstated the practice.

A set of outrageously high broker’s fees garnered attention recently and have reinvigorated the discussion. They include a broker fee of $10,000 for a $2,250 a month apartment, first reported by Hell Gate, and a $20,000 fee for a $1725 a month apartment. Both units are rent regulated and share a management company, City Wide Apartments, as reported by the NY Post. New York’s housing movement has been more focused on passing “Good Cause” eviction protections for the past year, though the coalition failed to get the laws passed in this year’s budget. If a ban on broker’s fees does pass next year, it is likely to field a new set of lawsuits.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: new york citylos angelesrent control

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