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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

September 23, 2016 -- Santa Monica residents most in need of assistance to afford their monthly rent could soon get help from the local government with a proposed pilot program.

Details of the program titled Preserving Our Diversity (POD) are still being finalized, but a report to the council says it would assist “extremely low-income residents” and “mitigate economic displacement by reducing household rent burden and achieving a feasible level of affordability.”

A proposal for the pilot program was scheduled to go before the City Council on Tuesday, but City staff says it plans to request the item be removed from the agenda.

A reason was not given for the request, but it most likely means that City staff wants to make changes to the agenda report, rather than a plan to withdraw the proposal entirely.

Increasing rent prices and the burden it places on lower-income residents has been a rising problem in Santa Monica in recent years.

A report issued to the Rent Control Board in March highlighted this problem (“Study Finds Santa Monica Affordable Housing Disappearing, Report Says,” March 9, 2016).

Among the study's findings were that there were only three available units in the entire city in 2015 that were affordable to households earning less than 30 percent of the area median income of $63,000.

An unscientific study conducted by the City during the summer found that 36 percent (155 households) of 433 households that responded to a survey are "severely rent-burdened."

The survey found that 79 of those 155 households have an average monthly rent of $954 and an average monthly salary of $1,144 -- meaning that 83 percent of their income went to rent.

"With respect to rent-burden level, the proposed POD Program could seek to eliminate rent burden by providing assistance to reduce household rent payments to 30 percent of income," a staff report to the council says.

It continues, "Alternatively, the program’s goal could be to reduce, rather than eliminate, rent burden," which would allow it to help more residents.

Other options are also provided to the council. Specific eligibility criteria would be established, and a process would be developed for people to apply for the program.

The budget for the pilot program would be $300,000. Funding would come from the Housing and Economic Development Department’s budget.

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