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Board Sets Maximum Increase for Monthly Residential Rent at $14

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 16, 2014 -- Residential tenants’ rent could increase up to .8 percent or $14 per month, whichever is smaller, beginning in September. This was the determination Thursday by the Santa Monica Rent Control Board following the public hearing on the annual rate adjustment.

Support for the measure was not unanimous, with Board member Marilyn Korade-Wilson voting in opposition.

Although Korade-Wilson did not specify whether she opposed setting a dollar amount maximum, she noted having one meant people with a cheaper rent suffered a higher-percentage increase than those who paid more.

“It’s a conundrum,” she said.

Board Chair Todd Flora said it was important to set a dollar ceiling because affordable housing was becoming scarce.

“I think we’re the tip of the sword,” Flora said. “We’re the first line of defense and trying to keep very expensive rents from going hog wild out there.”

The percentage increase was recommended by staff and calculated with a voter-approved formula based the Consumer Price Index. The $14 cap was also recommended by staff and based on another formula involving the maximum allowable rent in the city.

Several landlords spoke in opposition. Wendy Olshan, who said she owns a “mom and pop” four-unit property, called the hike “miniscule” and “unfair” as well as “hardly worth the paperwork it costs to process the increase.”

Olshan said the increase does not cover the rising costs of property taxes and maintenance.

“Some of us have long-time tenants that are paying historically low rents,” she said. “The increase on those rents this year won’t even buy a cup of coffee in Santa Monica.”

Olshan added, “What you’re going to end up with … are people who are going to sell out to someone … and put condominiums or luxury apartments on there.”

Flora was not sympathetic to Olshan and other landlords’ gripes.

“I just don’t know where the poverty is among the landlords, honestly,” he said.

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