In an effort to protect tenants of a Chinatown apartment from drastic rent increases, one Los Angeles City Councilmember is pushing for the city to use $46 million of federal coronavirus relief funds to buy the building entirely, Los Angeles Times reports.
Councilmember Gil Cedillo aims to purchase Hillside Villa, a 124-unit LA Chinatown building, as the Dec. 30 deadline to spend all CARES act funds draws near. CARES stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
“I recognize it’s extraordinary, but these are extraordinary times,” Cedillo said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Hillside Villa issue is representative of the ongoing debate between affordable housing and gentrification in Chinatowns across the nation.
According to Los Angeles Downtown News, there is a ‘battle raging’ in LA’s Chinatown: while gentrification may help local business interests, some advocates also fear that gentrification may negatively impact Chinatown residents.
“Local tenant advocacy groups operate on the principle that gentrification leads to massive rent increases, which displace low-income elderly folks,” Los Angeles Downtown News reports. “With 19.9% of residents aged 65 and older, the elderly population in Chinatown is substantial and is lacking affordable housing.”
For Rene Alexzander, a Hillside Villa resident, displacement may be on the horizon as his rent is expected to increase from $1400 to $2500 a month next February, Los Angeles Times reports.
“We have nowhere to go,” Alexzander, who lost his job and lives with five other people, said.
According to a previous AsAmNews article, residents of Flushing, New York are also contending with the need for affordable housing in their Chinatown.
Nonprofits representing Chinese, Korean, South Asian and Latinx communities are rallying alongside progressive elected officials against private developers who want to use 29 acres to build “3 high rise towers including 1,725 luxury condos with only 61 affordable residential units & 879 luxury hotel rooms.”
For residents, the plans are part of another push for gentrification, AsAmNews reports.
“What Flushing dosen’t need is luxury developments to ‘become a beacon for Queens at Large,’” high school student Audrey Chou said. “Flushing is already that beacon & these developments would dampen that light.”
Meanwhile, the Hillside Villa debate is likely to stretch into a legal battle, Commercial Observer reports. The building’s owner, Thomas Botz, is not interested in selling.
“Clearly, we’re opposed to it on all kinds of levels — economic, philosophical, legal, everything,” he said. “We have no idea how anyone could take that seriously. […] It makes no sense on any level.
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