FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Cynthia Strathmann
213-745-9961, ext. 202
SAJE and PolicyLink Reach Agreement with Developer to Triple Affordable Housing Units in South-Central Los Angeles Project
October 4, 2017 — Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) and PolicyLink announced Tuesday an agreement with developers that will roughly triple the number of long-term affordable housing units within a $1.2 billion mixed-use development project in South-Central Los Angeles, one of the city’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“We are deeply concerned about the rising tide of gentrification in the City of Los Angeles, especially in working class communities of color, where we see tenants living in overcrowded, unsafe conditions, or being threatened with eviction and homelessness,” SAJE Executive Director Cynthia Strathmann said. “This agreement is a step in the right direction toward providing much-needed affordable housing units, as well as other social and environmental benefits,” she added.
Approved by the City of Los Angeles in 2016, “The Reef” project is slated to construct approximately 1,440 rental and condominium units in South Central Los Angeles, and to include substantial commercial development. South-Central faces some of the most intensive affordable housing pressures in the U.S., and many low-income families in the neighborhood must double- or triple-up within single units to afford rising rents.
In the years leading up to The Reef’s approval SAJE and its partners in the United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) coalition organized community input and advocated for changes in the project to improve the project’s community benefits. After this community advocacy, the developer and the City agreed on a commitment of $15 million to a local affordable housing trust fund.
Assisted by the legal counsel of attorneys Mitchell Tsai and PolicyLink Fellow Julian Gross, SAJE pursued further negotiations with the developer in hopes of securing additional commitments. Tuesday, SAJE and PolicyLink announce that they have successfully reached an agreement with the developer that would increase the number of required affordable units in the project from approximately 25 to approximately 70. This requirement secures these units as affordable housing stock for more than fifty years, representing an investment worth approximately $20 million. In addition, the agreement requires that dependent students seeking to rent affordable units include parental income on applications, an important failsafe to ensure that low-income families can access these units, given the project’s proximity to the University of Southern California.
Access to affordable housing—especially in opportunity-rich areas near urban centers—is a critical lever for connecting low-income communities and communities of color to key community resources, including quality schools, employment opportunities, public transit, and health care. Increasing housing pressure in many of California’s cities has highlighted the dearth of affordable housing units, however, as gentrification displaces thousands of vulnerable residents. This displacement has serious health, social, economic, and environmental costs as vulnerable residents are forced to move to increasingly remote and disinvested areas that lack community resources and social ties, are cut off from economic opportunity, and are disproportionately impacted by pollution and other environmental hazards.
“Where we live directly impacts how we live and whether our communities reach their full potential,” said Gross, a James O. Gibson Innovation Fellow at PolicyLink. He added, “It’s essential that we maximize the number of affordable housing units in new developments in neighborhoods facing gentrification pressures.”
Founded in 1996, SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy) is a 501c3 that focuses on tenant rights, equitable development, and healthy housing in South Los Angeles. SAJE works closely with low-income residents to support their rights as tenants and to ensure that all Angelenos have a voice in land use policy and urban planning decisions. Along with the UNIDAD coalition, SAJE is actively promoting a development without displacement model through The People’s Plan campaign for equitable zoning in South LA. More info at http://unidad-la.org/peoplesplan.
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity. Founded in 1999, PolicyLink connects the work of people on the ground to the creation of sustainable communities of opportunity that allow everyone to participate and prosper. Our work is grounded in the conviction that equity – just and fair inclusion – must drive all policy decisions.