• Since 2001, the Ellis Act has allowed eviction of 19,000 units in L.A.
  • Be informed about local real estate, but ultimately err on the side of measured neutrality.
  • Ellis Act protests have been taking place all over the city.

Los Angeles has always had a curious relationship with its own growth and change, and this is also true when it comes to housing. Rising rents and increasing developments have led to tensions as many people feel they are being squeezed out of some of the city’s changing areas.

In Los Angeles, we don’t just stage protests; we make scenes. Last year, the rapidly gentrifying Highland Park neighborhood saw a protest parade complete with fake “eviction notices” posted on some local businesses.

Concerns about gentrification and tenants’ rights have a growing nexus of activism in the LA Tenants Union, which formed over the summer but has snatched up headlines lately with its “days of rage” protests. Protesters were first seen at Villa Carlotta in Hollywood, where activists dressed up as ghosts of evicted tenants who have been squeezed out as the historic building plans a conversion into a hotel. The October 25 protest got physical.

The LA Tenants Union has continued its activities all week, including a protest at State Senator Kevin de Leon’s office. One core issue is the Ellis Act, a state law which allows property owners to evict rent-controlled tenants from buildings if the building is destroyed or converted to another use. Critics and protestors throughout the state say that the act has been used as a way to get tenants out and cash in on a booming market.

Since 2001, the Ellis Act has been used to take nearly 19,000 units off the market in Los Angeles. Many politicians and housing advocates say the act needs to be amended or repealed. Developers and apartment building owners argue that the act has enough tenant-friendly provisions in place and helps keep building owners from bankrupt and is good for the overall health of the state. Ellis Act protests have also taken place in San Francisco, where rents are also punishingly high.

It’s a delicate situation for real estate professionals. The LA Tenants Union Facebook page posted a screenshot of a luxury real estate agent’s Facebook page after he shared a photo from one of the protests. Agents are often trapped between wanting to protect their clients’ home values and investment opportunities and wanting to support healthy neighborhoods and housing affordability.

Image from the LA Tenants Union Facebook page.

Image from the LA Tenants Union Facebook page.

It makes sense to be aware of the situations that impact the neighborhoods you serve, and protests over gentrification can be one of things that people may have questions about. While real estate agents are participants in an active real estate market, they aren’t the arbiters of it. When sensitive issues regarding housing are raised, the best course of action is to be informed but ultimately err on the side of measured neutrality.

Housing affordability is an important concern, AND today’s renters concerned about affordability may well be tomorrow’s buyers concerned about the value of their homes.

Deidre Woollard was part of the marketing team at realtor.com and is currently the head of communications for Partners Trust, a leading luxury brokerage in Los Angeles.

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