Rent prices tripling in an LA Chinatown apartment building means residents face possible homelessness

The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to vote today on plans to buy a 124-unit Hillside Villa apartment building in Chinatown amid huge rent hikes that would make the property otherwise unaffordable to its current residents.

The pending city council vote is two years in the making, during which its many low-income residents have been urging the city to purchase the building from its current owners, the Botz family.

Hillside was previously under an affordability covenant that kept its rent low for the past 30 years; however, with the covenant expired, the Botz can raise prices according to market rates.

Tenant protestors claim that Tom and Chloe Botz have doubled and even tripled rent prices for some Hillside residents. The pair’s plans to raise rents began in January 2021, when at least six tenants were served with “3-Day Notices” to back pay rent the tenants supposedly owed from before the beginning of the pandemic, dating back to February 2020.

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One of the tenants, Marina Maalouf, 66, shared that she and her husband have lived in the building for the past 25 years. They paid a combined total of around $950 per month in rent, but now, that number has spiked up to $2,660, excluding fees for parking and storage.

Maalouf says the new amount is more than their entire monthly income, which means they will have no choice but to move if the council does not intervene.

The council’s proposal, which is scheduled to be reviewed today, includes taking out a reserve fund loan of approximately $46 million to acquire the building and reinstate its affordability covenant for the next 55 years.

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Some other issues that remain to be addressed include evaluating how much the building is worth, property inspections and determining how the city is to acquire a property that the landlord has not expressed interest in selling.

For many of the protesting tenants, today’s council vote could mean the difference between having a place to live and being forced out into L.A.’s streets.


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Featured Image via Brett Sayles

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