By Jonathan Friedman
June 9, 2017 -- Monthly residential rent charges of controlled units in Santa Monica could increase as much as 2 percent or $40, whichever is smaller, beginning in September.
The Rent Control Board voted unanimously for these figures on Thursday following a public hearing on the annual rate adjustment.
The maximum percentage increase was calculated by a voter-approved formula based on the Consumer Price Index, so the board had no authority to change that.
However, the board was able to decide whether to pass a dollar-figure cap (also calculated by a formula) or not have one at all.
The $40 maximum increase is the highest since it was $52 in 2011. Other recent maximum increases have been $25 last year, $7 in 2015, $14 in 2014, $17 in 2013 and $26 in 2012.
Several rent board commissioners said a dollar-figure maximum was needed because rent rates in Santa Monica were increasing too much, too rapidly.
“We are seeing extremely high rents already, some of the highest in the nation,” Commissioner Nicole Phillis said.
She continued, “With high rents come too rapid acceleration of rent. So the higher the rent, the higher the increase every single year. So the rapidity with which rents increase rises exponentially. This makes rent control stock less stable.”
Commissioner Todd Flora called it a “no-brainer.”
“When you just look at the exceeding numbers in article after article of how we’re the most expensive jurisdiction in America, it really, really deserves almost a sort of no-brainer consideration.
"The people out there need some limits, some help,” Flora said. “This is what we can do [to help renters]. There are things we can’t do. This is something we can.”
Landlord David Miller encouraged the board not to set a dollar-figure cap. He said he has been able to do renovations, on kitchens and windows, for the building he owns in Mar Vista because Los Angeles only has a percentage cap.
“The dollar cap which is not legally necessary discourages renovations and directly contributes to the continuing deterioration of our housing stock in Santa Monica,” Miller said.
Flora told Miller he understands the argument, but he has to think of the renters.
“Right now with the market putting pressure on the renters to even make their rent, I have to put my concern much more with the renters being able to make their rent for the kitchens that they have," he said. "And that is why I support this [dollar] cap.”