Meister Asks City to Investigate Letting Renters Buy Their Apartment Buildings

tenant right to purchase act, rental housing
In an effort to deal with West Hollywood’s shortage of affordable housing, City Councilmember Lauren Meister is asking the city to look into the possibility of giving renters a right of first refusal to buy their apartments if a building owner announces that he plans to sell.

Similar programs have been established in Washington, D.C., and Santa Monica. The City of Los Angeles investigated the possibility of adopting such a program but did not do so.

Lauren Meister
Lauren Meister

In her proposal, which the City Council will consider at its meeting on Monday, Meister acknowledges the complexity of the idea. The proposal asks the City Attorney to look into legal implications of such a program and city staffers to conduct research among tenants to see if they are interested and among property owners to identify any potential issues.

Among the options that might be considered is tenants forming a condominium or co-op association, all of which would require technical, financial and organizational help. But “this program could potentially expand homeownership opportunities in the city as well as preserve existing units,” Meister notes.

“The need for permanent affordable housing is well-known,” the proposal says. “The Los Angeles metro area has become one of the least affordable regions in the country.”

Washington’s program, known as the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), was adopted in 1980. It requires a residential business owner to give tenants an opportunity to purchase the property they live in before the owner demolishes the building or removes it from the residential market.

In her proposal, Meister notes that from 1986 through 2014, 684 apartments in 161 buildings were removed from the West Hollywood housing market under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows a building owner to evict tenants if he decides to get out of the rental housing business. In a number of instances those buildings have been demolished and replaced by others.

“It is something that is being done in some cities,” Meister said of her proposal. “But I think it’s important to know if it’s successful or not and see what the barriers are…. I want to reach out to the community first and see if there’s interest and what property owners would see about the pros and cons of doing such a program.”

“While West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation has done, and they still do, great things for the city, and it’s been a great partnership, we still should still be looking for other opportunities.”


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Disco Dan
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Disco Dan

Joe 1 – You left out Mao!

JOE l
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JOE l

Larry Gross’ CES, the SMRR folks (who elect every single Santa Monica councilmember) and the rest of the radical left wing rent control Nazis don’t want a fair shot at owning their apt. They believe they should be subsidized for life and taken care of (I. E. Below market rent for life) by other hard working people who should keep owning. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would be proud of the people’s republics of W. Hollywood and Santa Monica

joetheplummber
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joetheplummber

This is certainly not a “tenant friendly” concept. Santa Monica allowed it’s TORCA provisions to sunset. This is a cynical attempt to appear “pro tenant.” In fact if you think of the result it would mean more buildings being converted to condos. or cooperatives. The people who can’t afford to buy (low income) are ultimately hurt and the number of rental units in the City gets smaller and smaller. Translation: Ms. Meister wants a City dominated by owners, not renters. I sure hope C.E.S. weighs in on this proposal. I am certain no sensible tenant’s rights organization would advocate for… Read more »

Lynn
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Lynn

Part of this equation though not part of the item is the reality of “deferred maintenance” of current rental properties. The city lacks the real ability to compell landlords, who by the way operate a major business in WH, to maintain their properties. Major systems is an issue beyond painting and carpeting of units. This area slides and allows landlords to profit by sliding causing an erosion of units. A single family home is one thing but land lording/rental housing is another. Unless this weakness is addressed, more props will be demolished and the cycle starts again. There is a… Read more »

JJ
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JJ

I agree with Justin.

Rob Bergstein
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Rob Bergstein

While this is a really well intentioned idea on behalf of Lauren, given today’s economics, it’s just not feasible. I had this conversation with City Hall staff last week & talked how my old apartment building on Havenhurst, back in the early 90’s would have been perfect for this. 10 units, the owner had just paid $300k for it, if the tenants had been able to offer him $600k and then finance $800k total to cover deferred maintenance, we all could have had a chance an home ownership at around $80k per unit. But fast forward to today and that… Read more »

Larry Block
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Larry Block

@Manny – brother the question is not how ownership could be structured in a perfect world with all agreeable parties. The question is what happens in the real world with many parties involved who do now agree. Lawsuits. Thats what happens, disagreements, lawsuits and owner type problems versus renters who don’t have to worry about insurance, maintenance, property taxes, or lawsuits if somebody slips on the property. A rent-controlled tenant could lose their rent control apartment and forced into a higher out of pocket monthly expense if this idea took root. In your limited equity cooperative the burden would fall… Read more »

Mike Dolan
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Mike Dolan

I think this is an interesting idea that could add yet another arm to the goal of increasing affordable housing. Let this idea be explored, not like the Co-op’s of the east coast but like Manny suggested, a partnership with WHCHC or the City. This can tie into our ageing-in-place need and the land-holder would be in set of the CC & R’s. If you rent to own in partnership with a hypothetical pro-affordable housing partner who owns the land; the physical structure and improvements’ are the rent-to-own individuals responsibility incentivized by low interest loans. Its like a type of… Read more »

Manny
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Manny

Clarification to my earlier comment:

On a 4 unit property priced at $1,500,000, the WHCHC buys the land for $750,000 and the renters buy the remaining $750,000 value of the property ($187,000 per unit)

“limited equity cooperative”

Randy
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Randy

The city needs to somehow provide incentives for keeping apartment buildings in business, or to make it unlawful for them to go out of business. The latter of which is probably not possible, because of legal hurdles I am unaware of. Another option might be to provide tax incentives for someone building “micro-units,” which will hopefully be on the higher end of the affordability scale. And to stop granting exceptions to zoning codes to developers (less parking, higher buildings, etc.). And maybe somehow provide incentives to building owners to provide upkeep on their properties. Many owners are letting their buildings… Read more »

Christopher
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Christopher

This is not a creative idea. Its an unrealistic idea. Lauren should do some research and make a fair honest proposal instead of tying staff up on ideas that have no ‘model’ or protocol. Perhaps this time could be spent on homeless solutions, marketing idea, helping seniors or others on fixed incomes. Lauren is just positioning herself as for the renter while she votes against the 20% inclusionary housing at every turn. Chris, Manny, Tom, nothing stops you right now from making an offer to the owner of the building for your rental properties. When one of the renters does… Read more »

Tom Smart
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Tom Smart

For crying out loud, people. This is a request to EVALUATE the legal implications and public interest in developing a program like this. What has happened to The Creative City when new ideas can’t be explored and people who merely suggest them are attacked? Opening the door to investigating and discussing new approaches to solving problems is not a bad thing. The process of researching and publicly discussing this idea could lead to other ideas even if this one is found to have too many challenges. Opinions – pro, con and alternative – can be part of that process. Is… Read more »