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Santa Monica Council Supports Affordable Housing Protection Measures

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

December 23, 2014 -- Two measures endorsed last week by the Santa Monica City Council could give added protection to low-income residents and others needing affordable housing.

The council voted 6 to 0 (Terry O’Day was not in attendance) to approve both measures, which were heard during the "Councilmember Discussion Items" portion of the meeting. City staff will return to the council later with formal proposals.

The first item -- proposed by Mayor Kevin McKeown and Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich and Ted Winterer -- would protect those who pay their rent with Section 8 vouchers and other subsidies.

“We have people living in rental units who actually have vouchers and aren’t able to use them,” said Himmelrich, who added that what she called “income source discrimination” was a problem in Santa Monica.

City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said, “We’re going to have to do some research if what this is intended to do is to require landlords to accept Section 8 tenants.”

McKeown responded that this was not the case, but rather the proposal was to “protect those tenants who are using Section 8 to the best that we can.” He added, “And I understand that there may be State laws that you need to work your way around.”

Himmelrich, who is an attorney and was elected to the council last month, said she has done some research on the issue. She said that a landlord cannot be forced to accept Section 8 vouchers "from the beginning," but a long-term tenant who needs to use them should be able to do that.

Another proposal that received 6 to 0 council support would help residents who lost their affordable homes because the building was torn down. This was also proposed by McKeown, Himmelrich and Winterer.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law this fall authored by San Fernando Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian that in effect requires a developer that tears down a building featuring affordable housing to replace those units in the structure built on the same property.

However, as McKeown noted, this does nothing to help the tenants who are displaced. The council members want City staff to come up with a plan that would help them.

McKeown offered a couple suggestions. One was that displaced tenants would be first in line to acquire the affordable units in the new building. Another was that the developer would be required to offer interim housing to the displaced tenants.

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