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Santa Monica's Newest Rent Control Tenants Leaving More Quickly, Report Finds

Bob Kronovetrealty
We Love Property Management Headaches!

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

This is the first of a series of articles on Santa Monica's rental housing market.

March 20, 2019 -- Santa Monica's once-stable rent controlled market has become a revolving door as vacated units fetch skyrocketing rents, according to the Rent Control Board's Annual report.

The median price for rent controlled units in Santa Monica is at an all-time high, giving new tenants little incentive to hang on to their units, the report found.

Tenants moving into a rent-controlled studio last year paid a median rent of $1,850, those moving into a one-bedroom unit paid $2,395, while those moving into a two-bedroom unit paid $3,200.

The biggest impetus for the skyrocketing rents was the passage in 1995 of the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

The state law allowed landlords to rent most vacated rent-controlled units at market rates starting in 1999. In Santa Monica, that applied to units built before local voters approved rent control in 1979. (All units built after 1979 are not subject to rent control.)

Since 1999, 19,562 of Santa Monica's 27,445 rent-controlled units, or 71 percent, have seen rents rise under Costa Hawkins. The units are then re-controlled under the new rate.

Given Santa Monica's skyrocketing rents, newer tenants are quickly moving out, with 42 percent of tenancies begun in 2015 terminating by the end of last year, according to the report.

"With rents that began at rates that would not be considered 'affordable” for many tenants, and without deep roots in the community, these tenants appear more mobile," the report said.

"As has been the case for several years, recent tenancies tend not to last long," the report found.

In contrast to the new renters, a total of 6,962, or 25 percent, of rent control units are occupied by tenants who have stayed in place since 1999.

They continue to pay rents based on 1978 levels with annual increases allowed by the Rent Board.

Long-term tenants, the report said, "may realize the financial benefits of remaining in place."

In an indication tenants are leaviung more quickly, 30 percent of the vacancies under Costa Hakins took place in the last three years, the same percentage that took place in the 13 years between 1999 and 2012 .

In an effort to stem rising rents, Santa Monica Assemblymember Richard Bloom last week introduced a bill that would make "modest reforms" to Costa Hawkins.

The bill would allow cities to apply rent stabilization measures to rental units that are more than 10 years old, which would include units built in Santa Monica between 1979 and 2009.

The bill is expected to have little impact in Santa Monica, since it would stabalize rents on occupied units already fetching market rents ("Slew of State Housing Bills Will Make Little Dent in Santa Monica," March 15, 2019).

Bloom's AB 36 comes one year after his bill to repeal vacancy decontrol failed to get out of committee. A similar state voter initiative subsequently failed.

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