LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez has introduced a motion to set the city on a path toward expanding its Emergency Renters Relief Program using additional funding approved by Congress to assist tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Martinez cited a joint UCLA-USC report that found 22% of LA County tenants paid rent late at least once between April and July, and 7% didn’t pay rent at least once between May and July.

“While the city’s eviction moratorium and Renters Assistance Program have provided critical relief, many tenants still find themselves months behind on rent with no foreseeable way to pay it back,” the motion reads. “In a city that is over half renters, this could turn into a catastrophe with hundreds of thousands of families ending up on the street.”

Martinez’ motion on Tuesday, Jan. 12, calls for the City Council to instruct the Housing and Community Investment Department and the Chief Legislative Analyst to report:

   — the amount of funding the city will receive from the federal COVID-19 relief package and recommendations for a new framework for the Renters Assistance Program to provide substantial assistance to tenants and landlords;

— the number of tenants who are behind on rent in the city;

— the average rent debt per tenant;

— the total outstanding unpaid rent debt in the city;

— the number of small landlords who are behind on their mortgage;

— the number of landlords in jeopardy of foreclosure; and

— any other information relevant to developing a new framework to assist tenants and small landlords.

Los Angeles’ rent relief program, which began over the summer, assisted 49,133 families through $103.9 million in allocated funding, according to Martinez’ office. Assisted families received about $2,000 in rent subsidies.

The program was created to give a higher percent of funds to tenants at the lowest income levels: 46% went to Angelenos at 30% of the average median income or lower; 28% to those at 50% of the average median income or lower; and 25% to those at 80% of the average median income or lower.

Los Angeles’ Housing & Community Investment Department and its nonprofit partner The Housing Center paid the subsidies directly to tenants, as well as landlords. Forty-four percent of the subsidies were paid to tenants, according to Martinez’s office.

The motion calls for planning the allocation of federal COVID-19 funding, which was adopted last month by Congress and includes about $2.6 billion for California rental assistance. The City Council will provide a framework for the money that will build on the previous program by providing rent assistance to low-income tenants and help stabilize small property owners, according to Martinez.

The motion will first be heard by Martinez’s Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Recovery and Neighborhood Investment.

Renters in Los Angeles are protected from eviction through a citywide eviction moratorium that will continue through the local coronavirus emergency.

The council voted Tuesday to extend the emergency again.

“I have said all along that the city and municipalities throughout the country need substantial and ongoing renters and mortgage relief from the federal government during this devastating pandemic, and I call on the Biden administration and the new Congress to take transformative action soon,” Martinez said in a statement on Monday.

“The success of our renters’ assistance program, the largest renters’ assistance program in the nation, is a strong indication that much more help is needed,’’ she said. “The motion that I will introduce Tuesday aims to expand and continue our program with the funds we will soon have available to us.”

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