LA should buy Chinatown resi complex with Covid relief funds: Councilman

Gil Cedillo wants to keep 124-unit Hillside Villa affordable with $46M purchase

Gil Cedillo and Hillside Villa apartment building (Google Maps)
Gil Cedillo and Hillside Villa apartment building (Google Maps)

While cities have used coronavirus relief funds to help renters and landlords, they haven’t earmarked the money to make property purchases.

Los Angeles City Council member Gil Cedillo wants to change that. Cedillo is calling on the city to buy a Chinatown apartment building with $46 million in federal pandemic relief funds, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cedillo formally proposed the acquisition of the 124-unit Hillside Villa building at 636 North Hill Place last week, the Times reported.

Landlord Thomas Botz wants to raise rents at the property, and Cedillo argues that purchasing the complex would prevent residents from being displaced amid the wider economic fallout.

Cedillo has previously proposed the city buy the property through eminent domain. Botz said he has no intention of selling to the city.

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Hillside Villa was developed in the 1980s with around $5.5 million in loans from the city, which were provided with the agreement that rents would stay affordable for 30 years. That agreement expired in 2018, allowing Botz to legally raise rents.

One Hillside Villa resident said his $1,400 per month rent is set to go up to $2,500 per month. Another three-bedroom unit is set to increase from under $900 to $2,500 as well.

Cedillo wants to use money from the federal CARES Act, which the government passed earlier this year. L.A. received $694 million from the legislation and has allocated nearly all of it on programs to cover unpaid utility bills, housing for people experiencing homelessness and to address other needs.

There is about $32 million left. The funds must be spent by Dec. 30. It would be difficult to close a deal for Hillside Villa by then, and the city would have to find more money to cover the remaining amount. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch