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Hawaiian Gardens Questions Housing Program

The Hawaiian Gardens City Council, meeting in regular session July 24, questioned the purchase of abandoned and foreclosed residential property in the city under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program [NSP} administered by the Los Angels County Community Development Commission (CDC).
The CDC applied and received $9.5 million in federal NSP funds to finance the acquisition of such properties in Hawaiian Gardens and make them available as rental housing for low-income persons.
The program provides financing through a secured loan to developers to purchase one to four vacant and abandoned foreclosed homes to rent at or below 50 percent of median income. All loans would have zero percent interest and would be secured by a First Deed or Trust.
Named by the CDC to manage and rehabilitate the properties was Cross Roads Housing which will be exempt from all property taxes with the properties being off the tax rolls as long as Cross Roads Housing owns and operates the properties.
Councilmember Reynaldo Rodriguez questioned the wisdom of having so much
rental housing in the city with no opportunity to purchase the property, adding that
large portions of the city could become all rental. He said under the program the property would be tied up for 55 years during which time no one could purchase the property. “Cross Roads Housing has already bought 14 properties and we didn’t know about it.” he said.
City Attorney Omar Sandoval said the city has no control under the California Constitution of who can purchase property in Hawaiian Gardens. He said the program does not come under city jurisdiction. “The city’s only option in this case, is for the city to purchase such properties.” He said the program is financed by a federal grant with the county having jurisdiction over it. “That is why they can purchase the property in the open market. We cannot restrict property owners ability to market their own property. If we do, we would be violating the State Constitution. He said when the property is bought, there is a deed restriction that it can only be rented by low income families.
Sandoval re-emphasized that property owned by public agencies are not on the tax rolls.
He also noted because federal money is involved, the County has to receive a report annually on the status of the property.
Rodriguez asked if there was a limit on how much property Cross Roads could buy in the city.  The city attorney said there was no limit.
Mayor Mike Gomez agreed it was not a good thing to have one outfit come into the city and buy up property without a limit.
Community Development Director Joseph Colombo said since there was nothing the city could do legally on the matter, he said the city could inquire more information about the program from CDC and how long it will continue. He said it looks like everything is being done by the book under the law. The best we can do is inquire and learn more about the program. They don’t really need our approval for the program.
The council then instructed staff to seek more information about the program and report back it.
In other business the council continued to its Aug. 14 meeting a request by the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation for a 10 year lease agreement at 22325 Norwalk Blvd to provide a pre-school education program services for low-income families.
Councilmember Reynaldo Rodriguez asked if there was a representative from the Foundation in the audience who could answer questions from the council concerning the number of families it serves and if there was pre-school during the summer.
City Administrator Ernesto Marquez, in his report to the council said the Foundation has received funding from the California Department of Education to provide pre-school classes for 140 children ages three to five years old.
The council also approved a donation to Pop Warner Football and Cheer  $5,000 donation   for uniforms, eq1uipment and other expenses. Pop Warner officials had requested $10,000, but the council felt there was a limit on how much they could donate.

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