Proposed rent hike at Eagle Rock senior living complex sparks outrage

EAGLE ROCK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A proposed rent hike at an Eagle Rock senior living complex owned by the city of Los Angeles is sparking outrage among residents.

Rent control is a major issue in L.A., garnering support from the mayor to low income advocacy groups.

But while privately owned buildings can only raise rent 3 percent a year, city-owned properties don't have to play by that rule.

The residents of the 100-unit Reflections at Yosemite complex in Eagle Rock are finding that out the hard way.

"We're on Social Security, a fixed income, we're all retired. We're all here 70 to 80 years old," said resident Alex Ortega.

The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) has owned the complex since 1994, leasing it out to seniors.

Resident Laura Straus says she was told last month that her $757 rent would be skyrocketing to $1,000.

"I can't afford it. I don't know where I'd get the money," Straus said.

HACLA officials wouldn't speak on camera, but they told Eyewitness News that the rents will now only be raised no more than $50 a month, which amounts to a 6-percent increase.

But that is still more than double the rent-control rate that landlords in L.A. have to abide by.

"We're on fixed income, Social Security," Ortega said. "The cost of living allowance that Social Security gives is not even 2 percent. And so how are we going to keep up with 6 percent?"

One HACLA official says the rents at the complex are "deeply affordable and well below Eagle Rock's market average of $1,150 to $1,300 per month."

Lena Silver is an attorney for Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, which is working with the Eagle Rock residents to fight the rent hike.

She says the city's comparable rent figures don't take into consideration state and federal subsidies that these residents don't get.

"We think it's very shameful that HACLA is taking advantage of that," Silver said. "The role of the housing authority is to provide affordable housing for its tenants. In a subsidized apartment, the rents would be even lower."

Meantime, the seniors here point at L.A.'s upcoming Proposition H, the proposed $1.2-billion tax to provide housing for the city's homeless population. The residents facing the rent hike just roll their eyes.

"We're going to be homeless. What's going to happen to us? Are we going to be put on the bottom of that list?" Ortega said.

The 6-percent rent hike is supposed to go into effect Sept. 1, but HACLA officials say they're still re-evaluating the increase.

UPDATE: After our story aired, HACLA released a statement saying it has decided to reduce the previously proposed 6 percent rent increase to 3 percent, which is in line with the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
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