Pro Bono News
At a Chinatown Apartment Building, Tenants Get Last-Minute Reprieve From Rent Increases (CA)
Wednesday, August 07, 2019
At a Chinatown Apartment Building, Tenants Get Last-Minute Reprieve From Rent Increases
"In an unusual last-minute deal, tenants at a Chinatown apartment building called Hillside Villa will be able to continue paying below market rents for another 10 years.
For the past three decades, the property has been under a special contract that’s kept rents affordable for low- and middle-income tenants, known as an affordability covenant. Constructed in the 1980s, Hillside Villa was financed through L.A.’s now defunct Community Redevelopment Agency, which gave developers low or no-interest loans in exchange for keeping rents low. Hillside is home to many longtime tenants, including families and senior citizens.
“This is not like an ordinary building where people...don’t know who their neighbors are. We are a community. We’re a family,” said Rene AlexZander, who’s lived in the building for 17 years. “We’ve watched our kids grow up together, watched them go from elementary to middle to high school for the past 30 years.”
Last year, however, tenants received notice from the landlord, Thomas Botz, that the covenants were expiring and rents would go up to market rate. In some cases, people paying less than $1,000 for two- and three-bedroom units faced a doubling in price.
Tenants organized and enlisted the nonprofit Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which found defects in the warning notices and threatened a lawsuit. The property owner, Botz, acknowledged the errors in an interview with KCRW, and said he couldn’t afford a legal battle..."