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Housing in Brief: Los Angeles County May Give Tenants First Chance to Buy Their Homes

Plus, Newark unveils a new affordable housing plan, and more.

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Los Angeles County May Give Tenants Right of First Refusal to Buy Their Homes

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved a motion directing county agencies to develop recommendations for a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). Modeled on a similar program in Washington, D.C, LA County’s TOPA would give tenants the first chance to buy the building they live in should the owner decide to sell their property.

“Between a higher cost of living and larger, private developers outpricing smaller bidders on properties in Los Angeles, there are challenges to maintaining affordable housing options…” Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District, said. “However, the implementation of policies like TOPA can provide a strategic approach that will empower community tenants and organizations… and [increase] the pool of affordable housing options that could best serve vulnerable populations like low-income families and residents.”

Other cities seem to agree. Washington, D.C. adopted TOPA in 1980 and has been able to save thousands of affordable housing units because of it. Next City previously reported on Minneapolis’ own plans to adopt a similar program in 2020. It is still being considered by city officials, though realtors in the area are campaigning against it, claiming it is an infringement of ownership rights, the MinnPost reported last month.

For now, several LA county departments, including the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA), will work with local leaders to find general costs, and how to best fund and implement the project. They will report back in 90 days.

A Nonprofit’s Guaranteed Income Program for the Unsheltered Helped House Participants

A $500 monthly guaranteed income program meant to help unsheltered and low-income residents has helped house six participants, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

The California-based nonprofit began the “Miracle Money” pilot program after launching “Miracle Friends,” an initiative that connected volunteers to people experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area in order to conduct weekly check-ins and provide companionship. From this experience, volunteers realised the impact that a small amount of money could make, and chose twelve unsheltered and two low-income residents as participants in the program.

Recipients were free to use the $500 payment however they chose, and were paired with financial advisors that helped them budget and open a bank account. One of the participants, Elizabeth Softky, had been evicted after her colon cancer diagnosis left her unable to work. Through her participation in this program, she became eligible for a San Mateo County project that provided her with long-term housing.

“Miracle Money” is set to end by the end of this month, but the nonprofit is hoping to repeat the program and possibly expand the number of participants.

Their success comes off the heels of the announcement of similar basic income initiatives across the state, although “Miracle Money” is one of the few targeted at people experiencing homelessness. Mercury News reports that Oakland launched its own pilot program for 600 families. And the California state legislature also approved a new guaranteed income plan for mothers and former foster care children, as Next City previously reported.

Newark Unleashes Affordable Housing Plan

Newark announced a new affordable housing plan to build 3,000 new homes by 2026 and to create or preserve at least 6,000 affordable housing units, TAPInto Newark reports.

The city began to focus on affordable housing after a study by The Rutgers Law School Center on Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity (CLiME) found that Newark fell short by more than 16,000 units for low-income households. With half of the city’s residents having an income of $30,000 or less, Newark’s median affordable rent is estimated at $763. Newark’s actual median rent is nearly $1,100.

The city has attempted to create affordable housing opportunities through a partnership with Invest Newark, a local development agency made up of planners and economists that aim to build a strong and diverse economy for the city. Together, they have led a homeownership conversion program that has already helped three families purchase single-family homes.

Newark has also implemented rental assistance programs to help those who were economically devastated by the pandemic, as the city’s unemployment rate rose to 12% in the last year.

“Our economy is recovering pretty quickly. We want to make sure those people who are suffering the most can benefit from this economy, either by working or, most importantly, by having a place to live that’s affordable,” said Mayor Ras Baraka.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and journalism in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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Tags: affordable housinglos angeleshomelessnessnewarkuniversal basic incometopa

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