Rent strikes on the rise along with rates

Renters are taking drastic measures to oppose big hikes

June 04, 2018 10:22 AM
A multifamily building in Pasadena (Credit: Kevin Stanchfield via Flickr)

As rents in Los Angeles continue to climb, the city is experiencing a rash of strikes by renters, particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods.

In at least a half-dozen instances since 2016, renters have refused to pay rent following hefty hikes, notices of eviction, or as a reaction to poor maintenance of their buildings, according to the Washington Post.

A strike is often a bid to force landlords to negotiate more modest rent hikes and guarantees of protection from eviction.

L.A. is one of the nation’s least affordable cities for renters and home buyers alike, thanks largely to low supply. While thousands of units are in the pipeline, many of them are being rented at luxury rates.

The city is also one of the nation’s most unaffordable places to live in the country in terms of the ratio of median income to home prices and rents. Around 54 percent of homes in Los Angeles are rentals — the highest level in the country — and 57 percent of renters in L.A. spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, according to the Post. The rate among black and Latino renters is 63 percent.

Rents in certain neighborhoods have increased by more than a third over the past three years. The median rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, for example, has risen by 35 percent since 2015, to $1,895, according to Zumper, the real estate site.

A months-long rent strike worked for a group of renters in Boyle Heights who were facing an 80 percent hike late last year. In February they and the landlord agreed to an immediate rate increase of 14 percent and a hike cap of five percent yearly after that. The renters also paid a chunk of the rent they had withheld, according to Curbed.

The Los Angeles Tenants Union is actively organizing strikes. Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, an officer with the group, said the tactic dates back to the late 1800s and likened the state of the market today to the one at that time.

“We are reaching levels of inequality that we have not seen since the Gilded Age, and so maybe it’s time to return to tactics like the rent strikes that were invented in those years,” she said. [Washington Post] – Dennis Lynch 

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