Metro Board Hopes to Expand Affordable Housing Near Transit Stations

Aff Housing

Knowing that affordable housing is one of the most urgent needs in Los Angeles County, the Metro Board of Directors moved forward with an initiative to partner with local communities to build more affordable housing near transit stations.

The plan, recently approved by the board, and authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Director Mike Bonin and Director Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, includes taking an inventory of current and future affordable housing joint development opportunities resulting from the Gold Line and Expo Extensions and the Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector, and Purple Line Extension Projects.

To date, nearly 550 units, or 25 percent of all units, developed through MTA’s Joint Development Program are affordable units. Last year, MTA joined with the California Community Foundation and the California Endowment to study the status of affordable housing financing resources in Los Angeles County and the role that other major transit agencies nationwide have played in affordable housing.

“Providing affordable housing to low income residents is one of my top priorities,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Decent, stable housing is one of the most essential elements for any human being to thrive. These developments are conveniently located and allow for easy access to transit in a low cost and environmentally friendly way.”

In addition, the motion seeks to promote co-investment along transit corridors with cities, such as using municipal funds for affordable housing, establishing a policy that 30 percent of all residential units developed on MTA-owned property be affordable housing and establishing a TAP purchase program for future commuters and affordable housing tenants.

Star Housing Apartments Offers New Life on Skid Row

Jude Burns stood in awe among the hundreds of people who turned out recently to celebrate the opening of the Star Apartments, a 100 unit supportive housing site for the homeless. Once homeless, bereft after the death of his only son and severely disabled, Burns got a new lease on life when he was given a place to live at the Star Apartments.  Finding a home and stability gave him the will to live.

“It’s wonderful.  Everything is here- the kitchen, the patio, the counselors. I have a new refrigerator and bed.   I’ve been talking to a therapist here to help me with the loss of my son,” Burns said.  “Without this place I don’t know where I would be.  The people here are family.  We all came from different walks of life, have different stories and just fell on hard times.”

At the celebration, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office invested $400,000 into the project, applauded the innovative and collaborative partnerships between private and public organizations to create Star Apartments, who frequently use emergency healthcare services such as hospitals and urgent carecenters.

“Everyone deserves to live in housing that it safe and affordable,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.  “Residents here at Star not only have a safe place to call home but they are also able to receive medical, social and recreational services on site.”

Located on 6th Street and Maple Avenue, along the border of Skid Row, the building is owned by the Skid Row Housing Trust and houses a Department of Health Services primary care clinic on the ground level that specializes in providing integrated health care services to homeless people and Star residents and the department’s Housing for Health offices with residential units above.  Philanthropic and financial organizations also funded the Star Apartments, the first supportive housing project in Los Angeles with 100 percent of its residents referred by the Department of Health Services.

Designed by notable architect Michael Maltzan, the six floor, 98,000- square-foot- LEED platinum certified building is made of prefabricated residences that were placed on top of a concrete superstructure. Formerly an elevated parking garage, the building includes track, a garden patio community kitchen, community garden and lounge for the tenants.

Robert Newman, Skid Row Housing Trust property supervisor of Star apartments hopes that Star will be a life changing experience for all its tenants.

“All of us have bumps in the road,” Newman said. “We want people to have a chance to get back on their feet and become productive citizens.”

Affordable Homes in Jefferson Park Now Open

Reginald Drummer was homeless, HIV positive and living on Skid Row for four years. But finally, he found the break he needed: Mercy Housing. The nonprofit had just opened the Jefferson Park Terrace apartments on Western Avenue and so he applied for a one-bedroom unit. Four months later, Drummer is working full time as a hairstylist in Beverly Hills, his HIV-related health issues are under control and his life is no longer on a downward spiral.

Jefferson Park Terrace Apartments Dedication EventI just needed a safe, clean place to stay and rest my head,” said Drummer. “Taking a shower, cooking a meal, feeling safe…all that stuff matters. I am so grateful every day,” Drummer said to a crowd of residents and participants in a recent ribbon cutting ceremony.

The 60 permanent affordable housing units are yet another example of public, private and non-profit entities coming together to build decent homes for Los Angeles residents.

Jefferson Park Terrace Apartments Dedication Event

“Every individual has the right to live in safe, affordable and quality housing,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who secured a $3.1-million investment by the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission in the project. “It is through this combination of affordable and sustainable housing, outdoor space and community services – that we really create effective and quality community development.”

Jefferson Park Terrace offers one- to four-bedroom apartments for low income families on the corner of South Western Ave and West Jefferson Boulevard. Six units are allocated for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Residents can share outdoor community picnic, barbeque and playground areas, a computer center and meeting room. In addition, there is an on-site resident services coordinator who helps with case management, civic engagement, health and educational services as well as employment training.  In a twist tying the past to the present, the building was built with today’s highest environmental standards (certified LEED Gold) but is also designed in the Art Deco “Streamline Moderne” style to work seamlessly into the Craftsman-style neighborhood.

The project includes the rehabilitation of the original Fatburger which was established in 1947 by Ms. Lovie Yancey, known for mentoring musicians and entertainers such as Redd Foxx and Ray Charles, located adjacent to the site. The stand has been relocated to Western Avenue and 31st Street, and restored to its 1952 appearance.

Larita Thomas, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment, said she feels secure knowing that someone in the building is looking out for her. She lost her home last year and so now she regularly visits with the resident services coordinator to make sure she is on track.

“The services are great here because they work with you,” she said. “I know that what happened to me before won’t happen to me again here. I love it here.”

Here is a link to another new affordable housing development:


Terracina Apartments Change Lives and a Neighborhood in Athens

Monique Rivers knows what it’s like to struggle. After returning home from a stint in the Navy, Rivers fell on hard times and became homeless. It was rough going—until she found the Terracina Apartments, newly built, affordable units in Athens that she now calls home. Now she has returned to school at the Art Institute and hopes to become a fashion designer.

“I have stability, it’s comfortable, beautiful,” said Rivers. “I like to have my coffee on my balcony and overlook the gardens. Living here has given me motivation and a new outlook on life.”

Indeed, the Terracina Apartments were meant to be just that—transformative not just for individuals but also the neighborhood.

The Terracina Apartments replace an old trailer park on a 3.5 acre brownfield site that was cleaned up. The apartment complex, which recently opened, is a $25-million investment in Athens that includes a $5.8-million grant from the LA County Community Development Commission to help finance the project. There are 72 units of low-income family housing, with 15 of the units reserved for youngsters who have turned 18 and have recently left the foster care system. Residents can also receive mental health services and financial, social and educational services from Didi Hirsch and Women Organizing Resources Knowledge & Services (WORKS)

Residents can enjoy a large community room with computer lab, barbeque areas, children’s playground, and a community garden on raised beds where fresh fruits and vegetables can grow. The site is close to the Metro Green Line, Washington High school, Southwest College, Jesse Owens Park and the South Los Angeles Sheriff Station. In addition, the building is Gold LEED certified, meaning that it has high environmental standards with drought resistant landscaping and has solar power.

“I believe that every individual has the right to live in safe, affordable and quality housing,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who led the effort to secure more than $5.7 in county funding for the housing complex. “This should not be considered a privilege. It is a right. This development represents the best of what government, the private sector and community organizations can come together to accomplish.”

Please click here for another story on affordable housing with services for residents:

Economic and Community Development Plan Moves Forward

Increasing affordable housing and expanding employment opportunities has been a longstanding priority in Los Angeles County, but the elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2011, made it difficult for the county to fund these types of projects.  But the county will soon have a new economic plan to boost jobs, business growth and affordable housing projects.

At a recent board meeting, the Board of Supervisors took a major step toward creating an economic plan for the County by setting in motion a Countywide Economic and Community Development Program. The program, championed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, aims to make it easier for small businesses and light manufacturing to operate in the county by expediting the permitting process and waiving associated fees, expanding key trade industries such as aerospace and fashion in the region and streamlining foreign trade.

The program, also calls for the development of a $100-million public/private catalytic development fund that would be used to develop affordable housing and transit oriented development projects in low-income communities.

Before they were dissolved, redevelopment agencies reinvested a portion of tax proceeds into communities to financially support economic development and affordable housing.  The development of a Countywide Economic and Community Development Program is intended to help bridge the financial gap that redevelopment agencies formally fulfilled.