They increase the rent by 300% to tenants in Chinatown homes in Los Angeles
Monica Ruiz has lived at The Hillside Villa Apartments in the Chinatown area for 24 years and, like 60 other families, is struggling with an impossible mission to accomplish: no one can or could afford a monthly rent of $3,200.
Tom Botz, the millionaire landlord, wants them all out of his building. In addition to increasing their rent between 100% and 300%, tenants are charged extra payments of $100 per month for a parking space and $50 more per pet.
For Monica, who like many neighbors has already received an eviction order, living in a three-bedroom apartment would currently cost $3,200. The building is located at 636 North Hill Place, in the Chinatown area.
In 2019 she was paying $1,000, but in February of this year, the sudden increase to $3,200 has her on the verge of eviction.
Monica Ruiz and the others have not paid. They have declared a payment strike since April this year.
Thus, his accumulated debt is very close to $25,000.
“Imagine, where am I going to get so much money?” says the distraught resident of The Hillside Villa Apartments.
To add insult to injury, her husband, who worked in construction, is ill. He has heart problems and only works one or two days a week.
benefited from public funds
Tenant leader Alejandro Gutiérrez told La Opinion that in the late 1980s, owner Tom Botz received $5.5 million in interest-free loans from both the federal government and the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. of the Angels.
Under the original lease, once the 30 years of affordable rents were up, the landlord was free to raise rents to market rates.
"Although the term expired, the owner reached an agreement with Councilman Gil Cedillo (LA 1st district) not to raise the rent, but later he retracted and did not want to know anything else," Gutierrez said.
“As of your decision, we began to receive notifications of a 300% rent increase.”
The tenant leader believes that Boltz took advantage of public dollars to extract maximum profits from low-income families at The Hillside Villa Apartments.
"I lost my husband a short time ago," said Sandra Sullivan, a 72-year-old Anglo-Saxon woman, who lives alone in an apartment and whose income depends exclusively on a pension, said through tears.
For her part, Rosario Hernández, 61, said that she used to pay $1,300, but now they want to charge her $3,2051.
"We had a meeting with him. [[Tom Botz] and told us that as a solution, if we couldn't pay, to get out or apply for Section 8.”
Mrs. Hernández reported that she works at a child care center, but not every day. If she does well, she could earn up to $2,400 bi-weekly.
"But if there's no work, I just don't earn anything," he said. “My son works and helps me; That's the only way we can pay the rent."
Since the end of 2018, the drastic rent increases began, which would come into force as of June 1, 2019. Right in the middle of the pandemic.
Knowing she was about to be kicked out, 62-year-old Michoacan Adela Cortez decided to fight back, having lived in The Hillside Villa Apartments for three decades.
"Like the others, I stopped paying," Adela said. "When the city decided to expand the Convention Center, I was displaced from where I lived, and I could not allow them to want to displace me again."
But the six-month notice of the increases was only the fuse that ignited the lawsuit with the landlord, backed by the Los Angeles Tenants Union (LATU, of which the author is a member) and the Chinatown Community for Development. Equitable (CCED), formed a tenants association that integrates Latinos, African-Americans and Anglo-Saxons.
“I was paying $1,084 in rent and the old man increased it to $2,600,” said Adela, who, doing individual accounts, says that she has paid an average of $432,000 in rent in three decades. There are 124 apartment units in the building.
Eminent domain, the solution
In May, the Los Angeles City Council voted to purchase the building from Tom Botz, via eminent domain. Botz did not respond to an interview request for the newspaper La Opinion.
It was precisely through this process that Adela Cortez had to move out of the neighborhood where she lived, because the city gave way to the expansion of the Convention Center. Eminent domain occurs when the government or some entity empowered by it, takes private property for public use.
In fact, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in part, that "private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation."
"We will continue to fight for eminent domain, more so because this man (Tom Botz) used public money to benefit only himself," said Annie Shaw, an organizer for the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED).
Alejandro Gutierrez, tenant association leader at The Hillside Villa Apartments, said the city, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Department of Housing, has priced the building.
Fear of being displaced
Added to the stratospheric increases in income are fears of displacement.
In the vicinity of the building, particularly near the Metro L line station in Chinatown, an investor plans to build a 725-apartment building; another 414+ apartments at 760 North Hill Street. And not far from said downtown Los Angeles area, another 318-unit residential complex is under construction called Llewellyn, at 1101 North Main Street.
"They raised my rent from $1,200 to $1,400 and then to $2,670," Guadalupe Romero, a Salvadoran woman who sells tortas, tacos and pupusas on the corner of 5th and Broadway streets, in downtown, told La Opinion. of the Angels. "That's a lot of money, and besides, people don't buy like they used to."
For his part, Daniel Carrara, a single Mexican who works in construction, pointed out that, for a bedroom, he paid $1,200 and the owner of the building doubled the rent.
For his part, René Alexander, who suffers from diabetes and post-traumatic stress disorder, said that in the apartment where she lived with her husband, her sister and two nieces they had to live for some time in hotels because they had an infestation of bedbugs.
“My husband and I started fumigating, but what we did was insufficient and all our belongings were damaged,” she said. "We had no choice but to sue the owner of the building."
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