Politics

Congresswoman vows to block proposed sale of LA County public housing

U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images

Listen to story

00:50
Download this story 0MB

Congresswoman Maxine Waters has vowed to ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to block Los Angeles County's proposed sale of 241 units of public housing.

The county's Housing Authority wants to sell the units, which are scattered across Southern L.A. County, because officials said the federal government doesn't provide enough money for upkeep. They estimated the apartments will cost the county $11 million in repairs over the next 20 years.

KPCC visited a handful of the 28 buildings slated for sale and found unlocked security gates, holes in apartment ceilings, and in one instance, a bathroom door that had been cut to accommodate a toilet that didn't fit.

Housing officials estimate the properties will bring in a $32 million, which they would spend on building new units - though fewer of them.

"We would prefer to keep the public housing model," Emilio Salas, deputy executive director of the county housing authority told KPCC in March. "The only reason we're taking this action is because of the continued underfunding of the program."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors would have to agree to the move  - and so would the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Waters told KPCC that's where she'll step in. She said the sale is a bad idea and if county supervisors approve it, she'll work to get it nixed.

"We know that it's important for the housing authorities not to be getting rid of units when rental opportunities are so far and few between," she said.

In March, county supervisors asked housing officials to meet with community members and report back on the pros and cons of the sale - particularly the impact it would have on the 772 people living there, all senior citizens and families with children.

An initial draft of the report concludes the sale "is in the best interest" of the residents and the county.

Local housing officials have promised tenants the option to move to other public housing developments, if there's space -  or a Section 8 housing voucher. Section 8 is a federal program where voucher holders can find their own rental and the government pays a portion of the rent, up to a limit.

But Waters said with 43,000 people on the county's voucher waitlist, that won't work.

"Even if you could get Section 8 vouchers for all of them, there are many communities who don't want them," Waters said.

Los Angeles county housing officials did not respond to requests for a comment Friday.

Waters said if the county doesn't have enough money for maintenance, that's what it should be looking for, rather than eliminating crucial public housing apartments.

"It serves a population of hard to house families who cannot be served well any other way, even with vouchers," she said.