Vacant Homes Occupied by L.A. Families to Become Transitional Housing
A group of families who moved into vacant homes in the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno at the beginning of the pandemic will be allowed to stay there legally while they search for permanent housing, according to a report in LAist. The group “Reclaiming Our Homes” took over a series of homes owned by CalTrans, the California Department of Transportation, according to the report. The homes were among more than 450 properties acquired by CalTrans decades ago as part of a since-abandoned plan to expand the interstate 710 freeway, the report says. Under a new agreement, CalTrans will lease some of the homes to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) for at least three years for use as transitional housing, according to the story. Residents said that their decision to occupy 13 of the vacant homes was driven partly by the COVID-19 pandemic, and L.A.’s “Safer at Home” guidelines, the story says.
“I want to emphasize that housing is a health issue, and we are having a health crisis right now in this pandemic,” said Marta Escudero, who moved into one of the vacant properties with her daughters back in March, according to the report. “We need to act faster to occupy all of these vacant homes.”
The “reclaimer” families will need to go through eligibility screenings and background checks, and will be provided with services to help them find permanent housing, according to the report. HACLA may rotate new residents into the homes if some of the current residents are able to find permanent housing, the report says. But the “Reclaiming Our Homes” group is asking for the homes to be used for permanent housing and put into a community land trust, according to the story.
“We want a more long-term plan, we don’t just want to be in transitional housing,” Escudero said, according to LAist. “Once you build community in a place, it’s really stressful and difficult to move around.”
California’s Approach to Housing Crisis is Ineffective, Auditor Says
California State Auditor Elaine Howle issued a report this week saying that the state has failed to create a comprehensive approach to addressing housing issues and has left $2.7 billion in potential housing funding on the table, according to a report in Bloomberg. The audit says that the state’s four agencies that issue funding for housing programs are “misaligned,” and that the state fails to compel cities to provide their own share of affordable housing, according to the report. According to Bloomberg, the report recommends eliminating the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee, which is chaired by the state treasurer, and is responsible for allocating debt and bond authority for various projects with a public benefit. The committee could do more to address the housing crisis if it would dedicate more bond funding to affordable-housing projects, rather than to other projects like proposed rail lines and waste and recycling plants, the report found, according to Bloomberg.
“California is failing to build enough affordable homes for lower income residents in part because the state lacks an effective approach to planning and financing development of affordable housing at both the state and local levels,” the auditor found, according to the report. “The state needs to improve its statewide housing plan, harmonize its funding programs, and strengthen its oversight of cities and counties.”
Philadelphia Housing Authority Transferring Vacant Property to Nonprofit Developers
Just weeks after agreeing to transfer a few dozen properties to a new nonprofit run by residents of two historic protest encampments in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Housing Authority is transferring 240 properties to nonprofit groups in North Philadelphia for redevelopment, according to a report in WHYY’s PlanPhilly. The properties will be redeveloped for affordable housing by a handful of community development groups in gentrifying parts of North Philadelphia, the report says.
The properties are primarily vacant lots in Latino neighborhoods near Temple University. The transfers are meant to “help balance the increasing volume of market-rate development” in those neighborhoods, Kelvin Jeremiah, the housing authority’s CEO, said at a press conference, according to the report. The proposal was led by Philadelphia city council member Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Ceiba, a nonprofit focused on economic development in Philadelphia’s Latino communities, and the plan was in the works for two years, according to the report. The nonprofit groups receiving property to redevelop include HACE, Esperanza, the Norris Square Community Alliance, and Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), the report says.
Quiñones-Sánchez said she was hoping that the plan would help the neighborhoods avoid the fate of nearby areas that rapidly gentrified in the last two decades and are now all but exclusive to people with low and moderate incomes, according to the report.
“I think what we’re trying to do here is really create a long-term vision for what a mixed neighborhood could look like,” Quiñones-Sánchez said, according to the story.
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.
Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.