HOUSING WATCH - In the first quarter of 2023, Ellis Act filings dramatically rose in Los Angeles, according to the Coalition for Economic Survival and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. It’s a devastating trend that results in less rent-controlled units in L.A. and more evictions of hard-working tenants, upending lives and fueling the housing affordability crisis. But state legislators refuse to reform the harmful law.
The Ellis Act is the 1985 California law that allows landlords, real estate speculators, and developers to take rent-controlled units off the rental housing market and turn them into condominiums or boutique hotels, evicting tenants in the process. In other words, affordable housing is turned into luxury housing. Activists have been trying to repeal or reform the Ellis Act for decades, saying it’s a major contributor to California’s housing affordability crisis.
The Coalition for Economic Survival and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project have long been keeping tabs on Ellis Act evictions in L.A., publishing their findings on an interactive map. Since 2001, the organizations have found that a staggering 28,467 rent-controlled units have been destroyed in L.A. With around 2.8 people per household in the city, roughly 79,000 tenants have been forced out of their affordable homes over the past 22 years.
“In the first quarter of 2023,” the Coalition for Economic Survival wrote in an email to its followers, “Los Angeles has seen more than a doubling of Ellis filings that threaten more rent-controlled affordable units and many more renter families than we’ve seen in the previous two quarters combined.”
The organization also found that with the end of COVID-19 tenant protections in L.A., there’s been “a steep rise in more Ellis Act eviction applications.”
Housing justice activists have long said that cities can’t build their way out of the housing affordability crisis and that politicians must preserve existing affordable housing rather than demolish it. It’s part of a multi-pronged strategy called the “3 Ps”: protect tenants through rent control and other protections; preserve existing affordable housing; and produce new affordable housing.
Unlike the trickle-down housing agenda pushed by Big Real Estate and YIMBY groups, the 3 Ps help the people who are being hit hardest by the housing affordability crisis – the poor and middle- and working-class residents. In fact, the 3 Ps also prevent more people living on the streets – studies have found that excessive rents fuel homelessness.
Coalition for Economic Survival and other housing justice groups recently pushed to reform the Ellis Act through a state bill, but it never made its way through the legislative process in Sacramento.
In the meantime, more and more California tenants are forced out of their rent-controlled units and more affordable housing continues to be destroyed to make way for luxury housing. Unsurprisingly, the housing affordability and homelessness crises continue to worsen.
(Patrick Range McDonald, author and journalist, Best Activism Journalism: Los Angeles Press Club, Journalist of the Year: Los Angeles Press Club, Public Service Award: Association of Alternative Newsmedia, and a contributor to CityWatch.)