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October 22, 2009

Tenants Sue Over Low-Income Units

Daily Journal | By Jason W. Armstrong


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is fighting a lawsuit by tenants of a low-income housing complex in Venice who claim the organization has illegally exposed residents to possible rent increases by allowing the building owners to prepay their federally-insured mortgage.

The suit, filed this summer in federal court in Los Angeles, claims that by recently letting the owners of the 1,000-resident Holiday Venice complex pay off their HUD-backed loans several years early, the agency stripped the apartments of certain low-rent protections guaranteed while the loans were outstanding.

The outcome of the case, the plaintiffs contend, will determine whether the 38-year-old, 15-building apartment complex a mile from the beach will remain one of west Los Angeles's last low-rent bastions for people receiving federal housing assistance, including Section 8 funding. It's one of several cases around the country in which tenants have sued to try to stop their buildings from becoming market-rent complexes in pricey areas.

"This housing is the backbone of a mixed and diverse community in Venice," said Brandon Weiss, an attorney and Skadden Fellow at Public Counsel, one of three firms representing the plaintiffs, the Holiday Venice Tenant Action Committee. "There is a dwindling supply of other affordable housing in this area."

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