Delay of Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program Spurs Calls for Audit

Delay of Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program Spurs Calls for Audit

A home in Los Angeles on Feb. 1, 2017. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

10/31/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

0

In the city of Los Angeles, applications opened last week for landlord reimbursements related to unpaid back rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a similar county program, which also aims to reimburse small “mom and pop” landlords, has yet to begin taking applications, leading to a call for an audit of the department overseeing the program to understand the delay.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the program in January to reimburse small property owners—up to $45 million—who are owed back rent accumulated during the pandemic.
But with neither applications nor program guidelines yet available, Supervisors Kathryn Barger, who authored the motion for the program, and Holly Mitchell, directed the county’s chief executive officer Oct. 30 to audit the department responsible for the program—the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs—to find out reasons for the delay.
Results are expected in the next two weeks, they said in a recent statement.
“Delaying the disbursement of relief funds to mom-and-pop property owners is simply unacceptable,'' Ms. Barger said the day the audit was called for. “The motion I introduced included an expectation that this landlord relief program would be launched expeditiously. We’ve missed the mark and small property owners are bearing the brunt of [the department’s] delays.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger speaks at the 2nd Annual Bizzi Awards held at the Japanese American National Museum in the Little Tokyo District of Los Angeles on June 28, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger speaks at the 2nd Annual Bizzi Awards held at the Japanese American National Museum in the Little Tokyo District of Los Angeles on June 28, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

In Ms. Barger’s motion from January, she directed county staff to identify funds for the program from local, state, and federal sources, which would provide up to $30,000 per housing unit to landlords who agree to not evict tenants when reimbursed for the missed rental payments.
Supervisor Mitchell said the program’s delay may lead to the displacement of families, citing an immediate need for its implementation.
“It has been almost a year since the board approved the motion to create a Small Property Owner Relief program to equitably provide financial assistance to qualifying landlords that have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” she said. “Every day we wait, more Angelenos are being evicted or becoming at risk of being evicted. Our shared constituency is counting on us to get this done, and we must do all we can to prevent more residents from being displaced.”
According to Helen Chavez, a representative for Ms. Barger’s office, the delays are a result of the consumer affairs department extending its deadline to get the program up and running.
“The department that’s in charge of designing and rolling out that program has kept on pushing back the deadline, so my boss Supervisor Barger said enough is enough. ... She wants an objective look at their planning work,” she told The Epoch Times.
In another statement sent separately to The Epoch Times, Ms. Barger also called the county’s delay unfair.
“I also find this delay launch hypocritical. The county expects property owners to pay their property taxes on time. So the county needs to reciprocate and step up quickly when property owners have needs,” she said.
An apartment for rent sign is posted in South Pasadena, Calif., on Oct. 19, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

An apartment for rent sign is posted in South Pasadena, Calif., on Oct. 19, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

She said her staff regularly hears from rental property owners, primarily elderly ones, who are “on the brink of losing their rental homes,” with many of them on fixed incomes.
She additionally said she will consider “consequences,” after learning the reason for the delay.
Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles’ rent-relief program ends Oct. 31, with eligible landlords able to receive up to six months of unpaid back rent reimbursed through Measure ULA funds, known as the “mansion tax,” a tax on the sale of properties valued at or over $5 million.
But some in the industry say not enough is being done.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported there could be more than $1 billion in unpaid back rent in the greater Los Angeles area, citing research from National Equity Atlas, which used Census surveys as the basis for their estimates.
According to Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, the rent relief being offered by the city and county won’t make up for the losses landlords have incurred during the pandemic.
“When you look at what the city’s providing the landlords and what they’re providing in rent subsidies to renters and compare it to the over $1 billion of COVID rental debt that’s still owed ... all this pales in comparison. It’s really a drop in the bucket compared to the losses that property owners have suffered these past three plus years,” Mr. Yukelson told The Epoch Times in a recent interview.
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

Author

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.