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LA County Might Have to Start Selling Off Public Housing to Help Sustain the System

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Federal funding for affordable housing is drying up like a drought lawn, and that's already having effects on the public housing system in Los Angeles. So to help generate a little extra cash, LA County's Public Housing Authority is thinking about selling off 241 units in 38 buildings, says KPCC. The proposed sale could help the housing authority out in a big way, generating about $35 million, which it could use to buy newer properties. Unfortunately, the money would only buy "about half as many units" in newer buildings. Plus, the occupants of the apartments they're considering selling would pretty much have just two options: relocate to another public housing complex or wade into LA's deeply unwelcoming rental market with a voucher in the hopes of finding an apartment within financial reach that has a landlord who takes Section 8 (or is willing to).

The buildings potentially on the chopping block are what a rep for the housing authority calls "South Scattered Sites," because of their location, spread across the southern part of LA County. They're mostly smaller buildings with fewer units, which makes them attractive to tenants who equate larger buildings with safety issues.

Those same characteristics make them hard to maintain and the agency is already running on fumes; government funding only covers about 80 percent of actual maintenance costs, a report from Council of Large Public Housing Authorities says. In San Francisco, funding was so short that the city decided to sell off all its public housing, a housing authority rep says. This is far less drastic—after the sale, LA will still have 2,721 public housing units—but it's not nothing.

Advocates point out that public housing is an important "social safety net" for extremely vulnerable people who can't find housing elsewhere and this sale would reduce the number of units available for them in LA County. But meanwhile the housing authority is framing this potential move as a kind of last resort. Faced with dwindling financial resources, they're also left with few options. "We would prefer to keep the public housing model," says a rep for LA County's housing authority. "The only reason we're taking this action is because of the continued underfunding of the program."

The LA County Board of Supervisors still has to approve the sale before anything can happen. They're expected to discuss it in the next few weeks.
· LA County officials propose selling off public housing [SCPR]