Los Angeles

Residents of Chinatown apartment complex want city to buy the building amid rent dispute

The housing crisis in Los Angeles has lead to some unprecedented actions, and now renters in one apartment building want the city to use eminent domain to buy it and keep their rents low. 

“This is the only place I recognize as home,” said Leslie Hernandez. 

Hernandez has lived in the Hillside Villa Apartments in Chinatown for 30 years. For decades, the rents here were protected by an agreement made when the building was constructed, but in 2020 that agreement expired. Now, the landlord is raising rents.

“A lot of our tenants’ rent was anywhere from $900 to $1,200 and now they’re basically looking at $2,600, more than $2,600?” Hernandez said.

Tenants in the building said that these are rent prices that they can’t afford.

“It is devastating because a lot of us here are not able to afford it. So, it’s basically an eviction,” one tenant said. 

Residents of the building are looking to the city for action. Friday, the city council is scheduled to begin a process that could end with eminent domain in order to buy the building from the owner. This would allow city officials to keep rents lower.

“What’s unprecedented is that it’s being used for affordable housing,” said LA City Councilman Gil Cedillo.

The councilman was referring to using eminent domain to buy the building, which is in his district. Even if the city can help the residents at Hillside Villa, Cedillo said this is the tip of the iceberg.

“Thirty years ago, we built about 10,000 units of affordable housing. These covenants are running out in five to 10 years, and if we don’t cover these next 10,000 units, then we are not going to make any progress,” he said.

Residents here said that action is needed now and in the future.

“The city needs to take action now, and so far, they’re not  doing that,” Hillside Villa resident Rene Alexzander said.

File source

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