Residents of a Southern California Chinatown apartment complex face the risk of losing their leases. City leaders want to buy the building to prevent this from happening, but the owner isn’t interested.
The apartment complex dates back to the 1980s. While initially created to provide affordable housing to people with lower incomes, that contract recently expired. The owner can now move forward to set rent amounts based on competing within private, not public, market values.
Unrelenting pressure on a property owner
For two years, city leaders and tenant advocates have tried to compel the owner to resolve the issues without success. Recently, Los Angeles officials proposed buying the building with a recent and subsequently rejected an offer of $46 million that would allow tenants to continue living in their apartments.
The latest strategy by those in support of apartment residents is to sell the building via eminent domain law, a tactic used in the past to protect public projects. While it is considered a “last-ditch” attempt, the city may move forward if the landlord does not reinstate the so-called affordable rent amounts that keep people in their apartments.
The building owner’s attorney cites the value of the apartment complex at $11 million more than what the city is offering. He also asserted that only 37 households out of the 124 face eviction due to rent increases. The other tenants are on Section 8 vouchers for rental assistance.
A large municipality versus an apartment complex owner is a classic “David vs. Goliath” dynamic that necessitates an attorney helping to even the odds. City officials and their machinations fly in the face of the rights of landlords to conduct business and generate revenue as the market will bear.