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Affordable Housing Should be a Top Issue In Mayor’s Race

The Presidential Election isn’t even over yet, but a coalition in Boyle Heights has already started their campaign efforts directed at the Los Angeles Mayoral contest in March 2013 in hopes of ensuring that affordable housing issues are part of every candidate’s campaign platform.

Dozens of people participated in the town hall meeting at the Felicitas and Gonzalo Méndez Learning Center on Oct. 26. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Comunidades Unidas de Boyle Heights (United Communities of Boyle Heights) on Oct. 25 held one of three meetings aimed at organizing residents to engage with the mayoral candidates so whomever wins will better represent the low-income, working-class community. The coalition is comprised of non-profit organizations that focus on a variety of issues, including land use and planning, housing, education justice and leadership development.

According to coalition member Elizabeth Blaney of Union de Vecinos, affordable housing is one of their top priorities because development projects over the last decade have reduced the stock of rent-controlled, below market rate housing to the area’s long-time residents.

As examples, Blaney points to housing units demolished to make way for the construction of the Metro Eastside Gold Line Extension and the Hollenbeck Police Station. All the units demolished as part of the Pico-Aliso housing redevelopment project were not replaced, Blaney added.

Now there is an opportunity to create housing on Metro owned vacant lots that current residents can afford, she said.

“The land should not be given to the corporations, it should be given to the community,” Blaney told EGP, saying the plots should be developed to benefit residents, not to line the developer’s pockets.

About 94,000 people live in Boyle Heights and 75 percent of them are tenants or renters, according to the coalition.

“Faced with a growing population and a net loss of affordable housing over the last 10 years, the current demand for quality affordable housing in this working class community has not been met. Rents are constantly being raised at the expense of quality and accessibility. Families are forced to share housing units because there are few options available. With 30 percent of the residents living below the poverty level, quality affordable housing continues to be a pressing concern,” according to the town hall announcement.

The coalition hope meetings like this will drum up support in the community, and put pressure on the candidates in the 2013 mayor’s race to address the issue during the election.

The next town hall meeting is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15. A third meeting, this time a mayoral candidates forum, will be held sometime in January, according to the coalition.

The coalition—which focuses on housing, education and jobs—is comprised of the East LA Community Corporation, Proyecto Pastoral, Union de Vecinos, InnerCity Struggle, and Legacy LA. It was formed around 2005 in response to a proposed redevelopment at the Sears distribution center in Boyle Heights. Coalition members wanted the community to have a voice and the developers to be socially responsible, according to Blaney.