These days it’s difficult for seniors in LA to find affordable housing. And it’s even more difficult to find affordable housing that’s properly maintained. The seniors at Chinatown’s Cathy Apartments have been struggling to deal with elevators that don’t work, doors that won’t close, broken electrical outlets, leaky faucets and other significant habitability issues, without getting much help from the City of LA.
But last year the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED), an activist organization based in Chinatown, stepped up and started demanding that local officials pay attention. They began a social media campaign to put pressure on Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Congressional Rep Jimmy Gomez to take action.
It worked. Community pressure has forced Cedillo and Gomez to get involved. And the LA Times reports that local, state and federal agencies have launched investigations into the causes of the problems at Cathay Manor. The LA City Attorney’s office has also filed a complaint. The landlord and the organization that operates the building have plenty of excuses, but according to the Times they’re getting around $3.5 million annually from the federal government.
So why can’t they take care of basic habitability and safety issues? According to the complaint filed by the City Attorney’s Office, elevators are not operational, fire protection systems are defective, fire extinguishers are inoperable and inaccessible, and the owners can’t even keep the building free of graffiti and trash.
The tenants at Cathay Manor shouldn’t have to deal with these problems. Senior citizens on fixed incomes need access to safe, clean, affordable housing. But not only has the City of LA failed by a long shot to provide the housing that citizens need, the City Council is doubling down on policies that promote huge density bonusses to developers in exchange for a small number of affordable units. According to the LA Department of City Planning’s Housing Progress Reports web page, the City has approved 172,613 new units since July 2013. Of that total, 87% have been for Above Moderate Income households. (Above Moderate Income households are defined as households that earn 120% or more of the Area Median Income.) The remaining 13% are for Moderate Income, Low Income and Very Low Income households. The recently adopted Housing Element and the proposed New Zoning Code will only exacerbate this intolerable imbalance.
If you want to read more about the situation at Cathay Manor, the Times story is below, along with the press release from the City Attorney’s Office and the complaint they filed.