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Los Angeles Daily News

Friday July 31, 2015

L.A. Councilman Gil Cedillo Wants To Spend $9M To Help Keep Housing Affordable

By City News Service

About $9 million in former redevelopment funds could be used to help keep rent and housing costs low for hundreds of residential units in the First City Council district represented by Gil Cedillo, who on Friday asked his colleagues to support the plan.

More than 15,000 affordable units could be lost over the next five years due to the expiration of housing agreements that protect tenants living in affordable units, Cedillo said.

"So even if we build 10,000 new affordable units," the city would still be short by about 5,000 units, he said.

"We can't build our way out of this (housing) crisis," and should also focus on preserving existing affordable housing, according to Cedillo.

His own district, which includes northeast Los Angeles, Chinatown, Westlake and Koreatown, could shed as many as 805 affordable units over the next three years, he said.

To keep these units affordable, Cedillo announced a plan Friday to subsidize some of these units using about $9 million available to his district through "excess bond proceeds" left over from the city's former redevelopment agency.

The money will be used to persuade property owners to extend "housing covenants" that protect the affordability of units, even as "we commence upon our efforts to create a glut of housing in the city of Los Angeles so that we can put the pressure on to reduce the prices," he said.

The proposal is expected to be discussed soon by the council's Housing Committee, which Cedillo chairs.

Cedillo also said he hopes his district could set an example for other areas in the city, since a total of $84 million was made available citywide — divvied up among the city's 15 council districts — when the former Community Redevelopment Agency was dissolved by the state in 2011.

Some funding from the redevelopment agency — which was tasked with improving "blighted" neighborhoods — was also used to ensure developers maintained a percentage of affordable units in their projects.

Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, which has been pushing for more affordable housing preservation, said that while there are various tactics to get property owners to extend housing covenants, "the bottom line here for most of these units is we need money, we need money to preserve these units."

Unlike affordable housing units that are subsidized with federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dollars and come with protections against property owners evicting lower-income tenants, the redevelopment agency units "have no such protections," Gross also noted.

"If the owner decides to get out of the units or get out of the program ... when the restrictions are gone, it's likely the tenants are gone as well," he said.

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