LAPD plans to tap foundation donors, landlords to give rent break to new cops
Hopes to overcome recruitment hurdles with $1,000-a-month benefit for rookies
The LAPD hopes to pitch in $1,000 a month toward rents for recruits during their rookie year on the job, using donations to the department’s charitable foundation along with direct subsidies provided by landlords.
The initiative, spearheaded by LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles Police Commission member Steve Soboroff, is intended to help attract new officers amid dwindling hiring numbers.
“It’s not that people don’t want to be cops,” Soboroff told TRD. “They just can’t afford to live here.”
Soboroff declined to comment on how much the department hopes to raise through for the program but said it “already has enough” for 25 first-year officers–an annual cost of $300,000.
First-year recruits in the LAPD make about $71,000 a year, according to city data, or about $4,000 a month after taxes. Federal guidelines and other rules of thumb generally point to one-third of take-home pay as a reasonable amount to pay for rent–a yardstick that would put an LAPD rookie in line to spend $1,350 a month on housing.
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the City of Los Angeles is currently $2,395 per month — a 23 percent increase from April of last year, according to Zumper.
“We’re having trouble exceeding normal [recruiting] goals,” said Capt. Aaron McCraney of LAPD’s Recruitment and Employment Division, adding the rent subsidy initiative will help that and is a way for the department to stay “competitive.”
In the 2020 to 2021 fiscal year, LAPD hired 79 officers. In previous years, the department hired an average of 500 officers a year to meet attrition rates. This year, the LAPD has a goal of hiring 740 new recruits this year — a number McCraney expects the department will fall short of.
Cost of living is one of the main recruiting challenges, he said. In the last year, the pandemic, anti-police sentiment that peaked after the murder of George Floyd, prompting increased calls to “defund the police” have also hampered police hiring across the country.
Soboroff is calling up landlords across the city, asking whether they can directly subsidize rents for new recruits as an inducement to counter some of the challenges facing the department. Landlords aren’t totally on board, he said, mostly citing the impact of eviction moratoriums during the pandemic.
Many landlords in L.A. are already lowering apartment rents through a program with the California Statewide Communities Development Authority.
Under those deals, which developers such as Waterford Property Company and Standard Communities have participated in, the CSCDA issues tax-exempt bonds to acquire properties on behalf of cities and immediately lower rents for “workforce” renters.
However, these apartment complexes are not reserved for any one occupation. Workforce housing, across the country, has aimed to help teachers, nurses, firefighters and other individuals in public service jobs, as rents and housing prices continue to rise.
In the event that landlords don’t want to participate in the initiative, LAPD will rely on tax-deductible donations to the Los Angeles Police Foundation to subsidize the rents of new recruits.
The department will use money from the foundation to pay a portion of a starting recruit’s rent. A landlord would get rent checks from the recruit and from the foundation.
William McMorrow, the CEO of L.A.-based real estate investment firm Kennedy Wilson, has already given $125,000 to the foundation in support of this initiative, Soboroff said. McMorrow did not respond to a request for comment.
Prominent real estate developer and Republican donor Geoff Palmer has also made a “big contribution,” Soboroff said.
Foundation funds are often used for new equipment, technology or specialized training programs. Since 1998, the foundation has donated about $43 million to the department.
“The Los Angeles Police Foundation is needed more than ever in order to allow the LAPD to move beyond the constraints of municipal funding,” the report said in a 2020 financial report.