The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to direct the city to negotiate leases and eventually purchase vacant homes owned by Caltrans in the El Sereno neighborhood as part of the abandoned 710 North Freeway Extension Project.

The motion, which passed with 14 yes votes and one absent, instructed the chief legislative analyst to evaluate funding availability for leasing, community outreach and the purchase of all the properties.

The Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department was instructed to immediately begin negotiating leases with Caltrans for all of the vacant homes, and the city’s Housing Authority was requested to begin housing tenants in each unit within 15 days of them being deemed habitable, with priority given to El Sereno’s unhoused residents.

“It makes no sense that unhoused families in El Sereno are living in tents just a stone’s throw away from abandoned homes that, with repairs, could provide shelter and help alleviate the city’s homelessness crisis,” Councilman Kevin de Leon, who introduced the motion, previously said. “We must move quickly to return these parcels to the community and create a fair process by which El Sereno residents are prioritized for rehousing in these homes. As we work to reduce the number of people who live on our streets, every square inch of shelter counts.”

Squatters were evicted and some were detained Thanksgiving morning by authorities after being removed from the Caltrans-owned homes. The people occupying the homes said they had “reclaimed” the residences as the state wasn’t using them.

The 710 North Freeway Extension Project has been a community issue in El Sereno for decades, posing an existential threat to the health and well-being of the residents of the area, de Leon said.

In order to build the freeway, Caltrans acquired hundreds of parcels along the corridor in preparation for the extension, but many of the houses have become dilapidated due to a lack of proper maintenance and have been deemed uninhabitable.

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