Amid the skyrocketing cost of living, the City of Los Angeles has launched a rent relief program for low-income residents who need to pay off rent-related debts accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Emergency Renters Assistance Program aims to provide a financial cushion for Angelenos on the verge of eviction Under the city’s pandemic tenant protections, unpaid debts related to COVID-19 expired last month. This program is open to all renters — regardless of citizenship status — living within the city of Los Angeles.
In order to qualify, one or more individuals in the household had to experience a major financial hardship between March 2020 to now — these include loss of employment, significant accumulation of costs, and/or a current household income that is below 80% of the median income for the area.
Eligible applicants must also have unpaid rent that is due to their current landlord stemming from as far as April 2020.
Qualified renters can apply to the program via housing.lacity.org or by calling 888-379-3150 until Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. (Hours to call are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday to Friday.) The program website includes information in several languages, including Tagalog.
According to LA’s Housing Department, the program is funded by Measure ULA, a new 4% “mansion tax” on properties that sell for $5 million or more which was approved by citywide voters last year. Additionally, that measure implemented a 5.5% sales tax on properties that cost more than $10 million.
The program began taking applications on Sept. 19 and will continue to until Oct. 2. It’s unclear if the program will be reinstated in the future.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the city has offered four financial assistance programs for renters; the previous iterations served hundreds of thousands of residents, said Ann Sewill, general manager of the LA Housing Department.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 19, Sewill shared that according to census data, approximately 80,000 households across LA were behind on rent. Through Measure ULA, $18.4 million will be allocated to those who are accepted into the program.
Sixty percent of LA’s high concentration of renters are considered low-income with about half of those low-income residents “severely rent burdened and have continued to experience challenges” due to the pandemic and the spike in inflation, said Anna Ortega, assistant general manager of LA Housing Department.
The Emergency Renters Assistance Program is part of a larger effort by the City of LA to help low-income renters by funding tenant protections and affordable housing. In August, the city council approved a $150 million plan stemming from the Measure ULA mansion tax.
For the last year, the city has been pressured to expedite plans to combat homelessness and provide housing assistance to prevent more Angelenos from ending on the streets.
“We must do more to keep people housed, and I want to make sure eligible Angelenos begin applying today for rent relief for back rent owed during the COVID-19 pandemic or if you are currently experiencing a short-term hardship,” said LA Mayor Karen Bass on Sept. 19 in promotion for the Emergency Renters Assistance Program. “We must continue to do all that we can to prevent Angelenos from falling into homelessness and help ensure small landlords have access to resources as well. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)