Press Releases

July 15, 2011

Venice Residents Announce Major Agreement to Protect Affordable Homes and a Diverse Neighborhood

LOS ANGELES -- Venice residents announced an agreement with the owners of the Holiday Venice apartment complex to protect affordable housing for hundreds of families in the historic Oakwood neighborhood for 20 years.

Two years ago, families faced rent increases of up to 70% and the loss of the largest federally-subsidized housing development on Los Angeles’ Westside. The settlement agreement between the plaintiffs, the owners and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ends Holiday Venice Tenant Action Committee v. Donovan, which was filed in U.S. District Court on June 1, 2009. The lawsuit challenged the prepayment of the development’s HUD-subsidized mortgages as a violation of the National Housing Act, which is meant to prevent displacement where the housing is still serving a need for low-income families.

The settlement extends affordable housing protections for 20 years, ensures that no current households are displaced and gives tenants the right to purchase the properties through a tenant-endorsed nonprofit in the event the owners choose to sell the development. All parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on July 8, 2011.

Working together with People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), resident members of the Holiday Venice Tenant Action Committee, along with Venice Community Housing Corporation, a local community-based nonprofit housing corporation, filed suit to protect the affordable units. They were represented in the lawsuit by Public Counsel, Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, and the St. Paul, Minn.-based Housing Preservation Project. The lawsuit named HUD and the project’s co-owners New Venice Partners and New Venice Investors, who agreed to the settlement.

Longtime and new residents praised the agreement.

“Venice is a unique place with unique people, and that’s what we are fighting for,” said Kendra Moore, whose family moved to Venice when it was one of the few places African Americans could buy homes in Los Angeles. Her grandfather and great-aunt once owned property that is now part of Holiday Venice. “My family moved to Venice to make a better life for themselves. Whether you’ve lived here your whole life or just arrived here, today families have a chance to build a new life.”

“In this economy when many families are worried about just having a safe place to live, this agreement shows they can take action,” said Maria Gallegos, a single mother of two school-age children who moved to Venice from a neighborhood where violence was common. As a result of the prepayment, she faced a $300 rent increase that would have forced her to leave. Now she says, “I have a safe place for my girls and that should be a human right for everyone.”

“In Los Angeles people are divided too often by the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the amount of money they have. The agreement preserves Venice as a place where everyone can live,” said Public Counsel President and CEO Hernán Vera.

“The potential loss of an already extremely limited supply of affordable housing for low-income families on the Westside of Los Angeles threatened not only the residents of the 246 units comprising the Holiday Venice development, but also the rich racial, ethnic and socio-economic diversity that has characterized the Venice community for over a century,” said Alfred M. Clark, a partner at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP who worked on the case pro-bono. “The agreement preserves the long-term affordability of Holiday Venice, and the long-term diversity of the Venice community.”

Holiday Venice was originally built in the early 1970s by the nonprofit Project Action, and the development consists of 15 buildings on 14 separate properties in the historic Oakwood neighborhood just blocks from bustling Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The buildings were developed utilizing HUD’s Section 236 program, which provided federal mortgage insurance and lower interest in exchange for making rental units affordable for low-income families.

Elected leaders including Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Jane Harman and L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl played an important role as advocates for affordable housing in Venice. Boxer and Harman submitted a joint letter to HUD on December 1, 2008, urging that the prepayment be denied.