In November 2022, Los Angeles voters approved a groundbreaking measure called United to House LA (ULA). ULA increases the tax on large property sales of over $5 million – and all of the revenue will be dedicated to addressing the dual crises of housing insecurity and homelessness.
Though ULA has been challenged in state and federal court, with disposition of those cases pending, the Mayor and City Council allocated up to $150 million of the first year of ULA revenue to fund the programs – this despite the fact that the City could be required to pay the money back if it loses those legal challenges.
One of the programs created by ULA is Short-Term Emergency Assistance. In light of the enormous amount of lingering back rent owed by low-income tenants across the City, LAHD, the Mayor and the Council allocated $30 million to the program in the inaugural ULA Fiscal Year 2023/24 Expenditure Plan.
The program’s objective is to provide short-term emergency financial assistance to low-income tenant households who have experienced a loss or decrease in income due to temporary economic hardship. In a comprehensive effort to capture requests, the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) created online application portals for tenants and landlords and also launched a marketing campaign to inform the public about the program and promote participation. Both low-income tenants and small landlords (on behalf of their tenants) were able to apply in September and October through tenant and landlord portals, respectively. All application portals closed as of October 31, 2023.
LAHD received over 31,000 applications from 26,000 tenants and 5000 landlords, reporting cumulative rental arrears of over $472M. Since then, LAHD and its partners have been working relentlessly to validate the application data and claims by both landlords and tenants, including providing technical assistance when applications required corrections or additional information. A screening and ranking system was implemented by LAHD to further ensure that the selected recipients met the program’s priority populations. These include households with lower than 30% Average Median Income (AMI), seniors, persons with disabilities and families.
The process for administering the program is unfortunately time-consuming and administratively challenging – despite round the clock efforts by LAHD and its partners. Therefore, the City Council moved just last week to prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who accumulated back rent between October 1, 2021 and January 31, 2023, and whose rental claims have been validated, for 120 days while waiting for their landlord to confirm participation and for disbursement of the money. Rental assistance may be granted to approved households to cover up to 6 months of back rent. Therefore, depending on the ultimate average size of assistance granted, up to 6-7,000 Angelenos may see their back rent paid out.
While an incredible amount of work is left to be done – and this won’t yet come close to meeting the need of tenants and landlords across the City – the Short-Term Emergency Rental Assistance will play a huge role in stabilizing the housing of countless Angelenos, and reflects an incredible launch of ULA in our City.
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