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Culver City's affordable housing discussion sidetracked by fears of rent control

It was standing-room only had Monday's Culver City meeting on housing affordability.
Alice Walton/KPCC
It was standing-room only had Monday's Culver City meeting on housing affordability.

The mere specter of rent control turned a routine vote by the Culver City City Council on whether to schedule a discussion on the subject into a three and a half hour debate Monday evening. 

As the meeting stretched on toward midnight, four members of the council agreed to discuss how to provide more affordable housing. That vote came after several other draft motions and hours of public testimony, led by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and skewing toward landlords who own buildings with just a handful of units. 

Culver City Councilman Micheal O'Leary recused himself from the vote, saying he currently rents out part of his triplex, which he is also trying to sell. 

After hearing from public speakers, Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said she was disappointed that the concept of rent control had dominated a discussion that was intended to also focus on the city's housing shortage and lack of affordable housing. 

"It's about making sure that the people who have decided to live in this community are not threatened with a 100 percent increases in their rent. And 60 days to pay up or move out," Sahli-Wells said. 

About 45 percent of Culver City residents are renters, according to the latest Census figures, and 27 percent of them spend more than half of their income on housing. 

Culver City's problems come in a region that is struggling with rising rents. A UCLA study released in August found Los Angeles is the most unaffordable rental market in America

It was not immediately clear when Culver City would hold its discussion on affordable housing. 

Few tenants attended the Monday night city council meeting.

"I want fair and affordable housing but I did think it important to mention a potential backlash between now and any of these decisions being made," said Jade Singer, a renter who said her landlord was increasing her rent more than $300 because he feared the city would implement rent control.  "I can't afford the increase that he's giving me and I'm kind of afraid of what's out there."