More than 200 low-income families from the Holiday Venice Apartments held a march and rally in Oakwood, Feb. 19, to protest the loss of affordable housing in Venice.
The vigil was held on the first anniversary of “Operation Oakwood,” when 300 LAPD and federal officers kicked down doors and terrorized seniors in an early morning para-military operation. The police claimed they were looking for gang members but found mostly elderly women, children and babies (see March 2008 Beachhead).
The 246 units at Holiday Venice represent the last multi-family project based Section 8 development within the coastal zone of California. “These buildings have always been for the working-class black and Latino families of Venice,” said longtime Venice resident Pamela Anderson. The project was financed by the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and built in the early 1970s to provide low-income housing to residents in need.
The project’s for-profit owner, Gregory Perlman (GH Capital), has requested to prepay his HUD mortgages and lift the restrictions guaranteeing low-income affordability. HUD has given initial approval to the plan, despite the objections of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Representatives Jane Harman and Maxine Waters, Councilperson Bill Rosendahl and L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa.
“We were expecting a policy shift at HUD after Obama took office, but we’re not going to just sit around waiting for somebody to save us,” said Holiday Venice Tenant Action Committee (HVTAC) President Kendra Moore. Tenant leaders have developed a plan to buy the project with the help of a non-profit developer.
“We want to keep the apartments affordable to low-income families forever” said HVTAC member Ollie Jones. If HUD allows the for-profit owner to prepay the mortgages, there will be no guarantee of long-term affordability and the tenants’ leverage to buy the apartments will be severely compromised.
In 1996, the average price for a 2-bedroom apartment in the Oakwood area of Venice was $550. Today, a two-bedroom apartment in Oakwood can rent for around $2,700. Roughly 15 percent of Oakwood residents still live at or below the federal poverty line. The Holiday Venice Section 8 contracts allow tenants to pay 30% of their income towards rent with HUD offsetting the difference.