Los Angeles launches applications for emergency rental assistance

The city of Los Angeles has launched its Emergency Renters Assistance Program on Tuesday, Sept. 19, with the aim of providing financial assistance toward back rent to low-income renters at risk of homelessness due to COVID-19 or other financial hardships.

The program, funded by Measure ULA funds, also known as the “mansion tax,” offers up to six months of assistance. Renters can apply online at any time during the application period at housing.lacity.org, or by phone at 888-379-3150, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The application period opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday and ends Oct. 2 at 6 p.m.

According to the L.A. Housing Department, Angelenos must meet the following requirements to be eligible:

— Be a resident of the city, regardless of immigration status. To verify if you live in the city, go to neighborhoodla.org.

— One or more individuals within the household have experienced a loss of employment, reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardship between March 2020 to present;

— Have unpaid rent due to their current landlord for any month(s) between April 2020 to present; and

— The current household income is at or below 80% of the area median income.

The program has a total funding of $18.4 million available.

“I want to assure everyone this is not a first-come, first-serve portal,” Ann Sewill, general manager of the L.A. Housing Department, said Tuesday. “You can apply today, tomorrow, or anytime.”

This is the fourth time the city has offered financial assistance for paying back rent since the beginning of the pandemic. The previous programs served hundreds of thousands of people, Sewill said.

According to U.S. Census data, it’s estimated that about 80,000 households across the city were behind on rent. Sewill said officials don’t know the incomes or how much people are behind on rent and that it’s a learning experience for the department.

“We know that $18.4 million is not going to be enough to cover the whole need, but it’s certainly a start,” Sewill said.

Anna Ortega, the assistant general manager of the housing department, said the city has a high proportion of renters, with about 60% being low-income renters and about 50% “severely rent burdened and have continued to experience challenges even now because of the pandemic and other economic impact.”

Ortega encouraged renters in need to visit the housing department’s website where a “wealth of information” can be found.

“We have services on the hotline where most of them are bilingual, English and Spanish, but they also have the capacity to bring in an interpreter for other languages that are spoken,” she said.

Renters can also schedule appointments in-person or visit a Family Source Center to get assistance with their application.

In August, the L.A. City Council front-funded a $150 million plan, as outlined by Measure ULA, with the intention of funding tenant protections and supporting affordable housing.

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Measure ULA is a 4% sales tax on properties exceeding $5 million, and 5.5% sales tax on properties exceeding $10 million. The revenue from the sales tax is collected and earmarked for renter protections, such as rental assistance programs, eviction defense, and building more affordable housing units.

Tenant protections for back-rent accrued during the pandemic between March 2020 to September 2021 ended on Aug. 1, and many Angelenos may face eviction as they work to pay any missing rent.

For rent that accrued from October 2021 to Jan. 31, tenants have until February 2024 to pay up.

The Housing Department will introduce an online portal to provide financial assistance for mom-and-pop landlords on Oct. 23. Small landlord providers who own 12 or fewer units will be able to file an application with the city.

“That will be an opportunity for landlords whose tenants may not have applied in the first phase to submit their application and then the program will review the landlord’s eligibility and invite the landlord’s tenants to also apply,” Ortega said.

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