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Fullerton won’t freeze rent hikes, but will look at expanding subsidies

Fullerton may expand its rent subsidy program, aiming to help residents in low-income apartments who are dealing with rent increases during the coronavirus pandemic.

The City Council last week voted 3-2 to direct city staffers to come up with options on expanding the program for the council to discuss at its next meeting on June 16. The options could include securing private grants or using federal funds, such as money from the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief bill, city officials said.

The city’s subsidy program currently is available for low-income seniors to get help with rent assistance, if they are veterans or mobile home park residents.

Some residents and nonprofits also called for a 60-day rent freeze, saying one would especially benefit the city’s low-income residents who may have lost jobs or are financially struggling because of the pandemic. They pointed to a recent rent increase at a low-income apartment complex in south Fullerton as an example of the need.

“Those increases add up and are impacting their livelihood,” Councilman Jesus Silva said.

But the majority of council members opposed going as far as freezing rents in the city.

It could have the unintended consequence of reversing a deal for a cap on rents at the Rancho La Paz mobile home park the city helped negotiate for residents there after a sudden large increase in rents was announced, Councilwoman Jan Flory said. A subsidy program may be a better solution for the community at large, she said.

Councilman Bruce Whitaker, who along with Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald opposed expanding the subsidy and putting in place the rent freeze, called the policies a “major intrusion into private contracts” and a “blunt instrument” that could have many ramifications.

If the city really wants to help the residents, he said there’s a bolder move it should take.

“The real big issue is the ongoing lock down,” he said. “This lock down needs to end.”

Source: Orange County Register

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