The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to explore funding options to purchase a long-sought Chinatown residential complex for low-income families for more than $45 million.

The council previously sought to purchase the Hillside Villa Apartments with federal COVID-19 relief funds, but City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn said he doesn’t think the building will be eligible for purchase under federal guidelines.

The council, on a 14-0 vote with one member absent Wednesday, instructed Llewellyn “to seek and take all necessary actions to find $45,695,000 … to initiate the acquisition of the Hillside Villa Apartments.”

Llewellyn was also instructed to report back to council members in 30 days.

“I just wanted to make a point that in this circumstance, we should be looking at all options, including the CARES Act,” Councilman Gil Cedillo, who introduced the motion and represents the building’s district, said during Wednesday’s meeting. “The pandemic does have an impact on the tenants, who have had job loss and sadly we’ve lost some tenants.”

The Hillside Villa Apartments is a 124-unit affordable housing development, located at 636 N. Hill Place. The apartments were constructed with loan assistance from the then-Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles.

In exchange for the loans of about $5.5 million, a 30-year affordable housing covenant was negotiated with the property owner. That agreement expired in August 2020.

Tenants were paying around $900 to $1,200 a month but are now looking at rent increases of up to $3,200 a month. Numerous families and senior citizens will be vulnerable to market-rate rent increases, according to Cedillo.

A woman who said she was a resident in the building called in to the City Council meeting Wednesday.

“We here at Hillside Villa are seriously in danger, hundreds of families, of becoming homeless,” she said “…We have to think of our little kids, if we become homeless, this is endangering their lives.”

With the purchase, the cost would be about $362,000 per unit, and it is easier for families already living there to remain rather than build new apartments, according to Cedillo, who has called the potential purchase “probably one of the most cost-effective purchases that we will engage in.”

“Now, more than ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the livelihoods of the tenants of the Hillside Villa Apartments are in jeopardy. There is an incredible need to assist the many families that are facing evictions and mass displacement and ultimately homelessness, as rents are due to rise to market rate in February 2021,” Cedillo said in the motion.

The Housing and Community Investment Department previously reviewed the potential to acquire the apartments by eminent domain with the goal of preserving housing for public use.

In September, the Department of General Services commissioned an appraisal of the property that established a hypothetical market value leased fee at $45.695 million, according to Cedillo.

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