Landlords won’t be able to raise rents on Santa Ana residents until at least May 31, under a new emergency order that stretches protections for residents strained financially by the local coronavirus crisis.
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“Residential landlords in the city are hereby prohibited from increasing rent for all tenants while Executive Order N-28-20 adopted by the Governor of the State of California remains in effect or is extended by the Governor,” reads the rent freeze provision of an emergency executive order signed by City Manager Kristine Ridge on Tuesday, April 7.
The order implements “a rent freeze for increasing rentals for occupied residential units in an effort to maintain stability for our residential housing, and encourage the residents to adhere to the governor’s stay at home orders,” Ridge said at the City Council’s April 7 virtual meeting.
Paul Eakins, a city spokesman, said he’s unsure “for certain” whether Santa Ana is the first OC city to freeze rent increases during the local emergency, though “I haven’t heard of any other Orange County cities enacting this measure.”
The new order also extends the timelines of various land use and planning approvals – like outdoor dining, demolition, and conditional use permits for businesses like restaurants — for six months after their originally scheduled expiration dates, to further help out businesses in the area, as the local economy is expected to suffer from health guidelines to limit public interactions and nonessential trips out in public.
Protections specifically extend to the city’s commercial cannabis businesses, as well, temporarily lifting requirements for pot shop employees to complete criminal background checks before starting their jobs.
And residents who’ve received code violations have 60 more days to “respond or take action,” under the order.
Read the city’s new order here.
The new protections add to existing emergency measures the city enacted back in March, banning utility shutoffs and the eviction of tenants over an inability to pay rent due to the financial constraints of the health crisis.
That order doesn’t waive tenants’ rent payments but stalls the eviction process by landlords for the duration of the local emergency. Renters under the order also have to prove they’ve taken critical financial hits from the health crisis, and they’ll have to pay the rent amounts within six months of the expiration of the order.
Residents and community activists have for years called on the city to tighten protections for residents in the form of rent control measures, and activists failed in 2018 to get a rent control measure on the November ballot that year due to a lack of signatures.
A new statewide rent control law, AB 1482, took effect at the beginning of this year, limiting most landlords up and down the state from hiking rents by more than 8% a year.
Leading up to the bill’s implementation, Santa Ana residents last year said the bill all but guaranteed rent increases by landlords trying to get ahead of the law, with many residents showing up to City Council meetings in November saying they were evicted or that they feared they would be.
Santa Ana doesn’t currently have its own permanent rent control law.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporting fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.