Los Angeles leaders have relied on different strategies for slowing the growth in housing prices — limits on rent hikes in older buildings, new restrictions on Airbnb and incentives for developers who build affordable housing.
Now, City Councilman Gil Cedillo has another idea for keeping rents low in his district: Force a landlord in Chinatown to sell its building to the city.
On Friday, Cedillo announced plans for having the Board of Public Works — the agency that oversees sidewalk repairs, street repaving and the construction of bridges — use its power of eminent domain to acquire a 124-unit apartment building from landlord Thomas Botz.
Cedillo said the strategy is needed to keep 59 units of affordable housing inside the building, known as Hillside Villa, from switching over to market rate prices. A 30-year agreement to keep rents low between the property owners and city expired in 2018 — and attempts at reaching a new deal have fallen apart.
“We will use all of the resources of the city, both legal and fiscal, to protect these tenants,” he said. “The city is in crisis … with respect to housing and affordability.”
Rents in 51 of Hillside Villa’s apartments are slated to go up an average of 50% in September, according to Botz, whose company, 636 NHP LLC, owns the building. In at least one three-bedroom unit, the monthly rent is expected to go from $889 to about $2,500, he said.
Hillside Villa was originally built with the city’s help. In 1986, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency provided $5.45 million in loans to the developers, who, in turn, agreed to keep rents at affordable prices for 30 years, according to officials in Cedillo’s office.
Botz said he intends to fight any effort by the city to take his property. And he argued that Hillside Villa’s owners never would have agreed to provide the affordable housing three decades ago if they knew the city would renege once the agreement expired.
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