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Santa Monica Lawmakers' Bills Clear Committee Hurdles


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By Jorge Casuso

May 9, 2018 -- Two State bills by Santa Monica lawmakers that are geared to boost or protect affordable housing passed key committees Tuesday.

Sen. Ben Allen’s bill -- SB 961 -- which was approved on a 13-0 vote in the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee would create special taxing districts near public transit to fund affordable housing, transportation initiatives and green spaces.

The districts would used the enhanced tax increment from increased property and sales taxes to make improvements within their boundaries.

Drafted by Move LA, the bill was amended to "ensure that its housing and infrastructure investment program was targeted to the bus transit corridors most likely to provide significant transit opportunities," transportation advocacy group said.

After the vote, the bill's co-sponsor Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), who chairs the committee, urged Governor Brown to accept a key provision in the bill that would not require voter approval to issue bonds.

Under the bill, the districts would be required to earmark 40 percent of the sales and property tax increment to affordable housing, according to Move LA.

Also on Tuesday, Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s bill (AB 2364) -- which would make it harder for landlords to skirt protections for renters under the 1985 Ellis Act -- passed out of its second Assembly Committee on a 7-3 vote.

The legislation would prevent the loss of affordable housing in cities with rent control by adding protections for tenants under the state law, which allows landlords to "go out of business" by evicting all tenants in a building and exiting the rental business.

“The housing crisis has left tenants increasingly vulnerable in the face of rapidly escalating housing costs,” said Bloom, a former Santa Monica mayor.

“Though insulated from some of these price increases, tenants in rent control units are at risk of displacement by landlords who want to raise rents to market prices," Bloom said.

Landlords, who can subsequently re-enter the business under certain conditions, "often withdraw individual units from the rental market and return them in a piecemeal manner to avoid the Act’s restrictions and to evade rent control," Bloom said.

Since its enactment, the Ellis Act has been used to withdraw 3,042 units from the the Santa Monica market, according to a 2017 report by the Santa Monica Rent Control Board.

Bloom estimates that the Los Angeles area has lost more than 20,000 rent-controlled units since 2001, “with tens of thousands of tenants evicted in the process.”


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