The City Council of West Hollywood is considering a new initiative to make the city a more accessible and welcoming place for aging residents and those living with disabilities. The council will consider directing staff to evaluate possible local incentives that would encourage landlords to allow unit swaps in rent-stabilized buildings. The program, conceived by WEHOville publisher Larry Block nearly 10 years ago, would allow a resident with limited mobility who lives in an upper-floor unit to move to a lower floor unit in the same building and maintain the same rent.
The city has long prioritized creating a community where aging is embraced and people have housing options that are suitable and accessible. However, long-term tenants who are aging in place or living with disabilities may struggle to stay in their current units if they are on upper floors of buildings that are only accessible by stairs. Unit swaps would allow these tenants to switch to a more accessible lower-floor apartment while maintaining their current rent.
Despite the city’s efforts, existing restrictions in state law present a barrier to tenants being allowed to transfer units. The state’s Costa Hawkins code outlines that a landlord can establish the initial rental rate for a dwelling or unit. If a tenant wants to switch units, it would be considered a new tenancy and the landlord would be allowed to raise the rent to market rate.
As a result, any local unit swap program would be a voluntary arrangement between the property owner and the tenant. The council will consider possible incentives for landlords to participate, such as grants to property owners to upgrade units or the exterior of buildings.
City staff has been in discussions with legislators and partners in Sacramento for many years about the need for a unit swap program. In addition to evaluating local incentives, the council will direct staff to continue to lobby for legislation that would require unit swaps or provide state incentives to encourage landlord participation in a voluntary unit swap program.
The staff analysis indicates that this initiative would have a medium impact on staff time and current departmental workplans. Staff will evaluate local incentives and determine what is legally permissible at the local level, with the assistance of the City Attorney’s office, and what would be enough of a benefit for landlords to voluntarily participate.
The City Council’s consideration of this initiative underscores its commitment to making West Hollywood a more accessible and welcoming place for all residents, regardless of age or ability.
[…] had spoken with Shyne briefly a few days after the city council meeting with regarding the unit swap proposal and hoped for a better working relationship. And a few days later I followed up with an email, […]
I thought this was already a thing. Had no idea that it was illegal. Must have remembered a willing landlord/owner, or a different place.
That is a great plan, Larry.
What a brilliant and compassionate idea Larry! And it’s about damn time you got credit for it! Thank You!!
Larry’s brilliant idea.👏👏👏
Hopefully the council members credit Larry for it🏆
I love this.
The Unit Swap program put forward by the city sounds like a good common sense idea.We all have to think of our older residents who live in buildings without elevators.I think the bureaucratic kinks can be worked out with the right legislation.
I recall very clearly when Larry Block proposed this years ago.
Along with safer crosswalks, monkeypox clinics, the rainbow flag at city hall, the disability health fair, green city awards, term limits (no bueno) being a job creator, free COVID masks, operating the “Gay’s Store on Earth” and running this resident-centric online news source, thanks Larry!
This would be wonderful. I have been considering asking my landlord for such a swap. The only thing is that I am on the Section 8 program so that the unit would have to be inspected and go through that whole rig-a-ma-role for that program.
This is a fantastic idea. Thank you, Larry, for suggesting it.
I recall Larry being very concerned about Yola Dore and other disabled residents and seniors who had to navigate stairs that were not a problem when the first rented their units but had to deal with unsympathetic landlords as they got older. We have waited way to long to see this common sense
solution to allowing seniors to age in place.
This is true Steve, inspired by Yola Dore. She lives on a second floor walkup with very steep steps and had to park her walker on the bottom of the stairwell. At times it was stolen. An empty unit was available on the first floor but the ‘trade’ was not allowed.
When Dial-a-Ride had weekly bus runs to Trader Joe’s on Fridays, I noticed that some disabled seniors, including Yola, lived in upstairs units with steep steps. Our driver helped them carry their groceries up to their units and sometimes it took several minutes. I can imagine how difficult it must be for older people to navigate those stairs on a daily basis. I’m happy to have chosen a ground floor unit when I was much younger but not everyone is as lucky. I hope the city will move to make life safer for its older citizens.