In 2019, progressive politicians in Los Angeles voted against a bill that would have allowed for the construction of additional homes to lower rental costs for low-class and lower-middle-class tenants. Now, to make up for the expected shortfall in affordable rental housing, they want to use Eminent Domain laws to literally steal housing units from landlords who don’t want to lower rental costs.
The target at present, Mr. Botz, owns Hillside Villa, an apartment building with 124 units. Of these, nearly sixty units are slotted as “affordable housing units,” which means that Mr. Botz currently charges below-market prices. This is expected to change, however, and rents will go up by an average of 50% in September.
Pandering city politicians, furious at the idea that someone in their area won’t cater to their demands, are threatening to use all the city’s resources to force Mr. Botz to give in to the city council’s wishes.
When Hillside Villa was first built, Mr. Botz obtained a $5.45 million loan from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. As part of the terms of the loan, he agreed to keep rents at an affordable price for the next thirty years. Hillside Villa kept its end of the bargain for the next three decades. In 2018, the deal ended, and Mr. Botz and the city came to a tentative verbal agreement for extending it. However, the continual harassment and legal action Mr. Botz endured throughout the negotiation process caused him to realize that city officials and left-wing activists weren’t going to leave him in peace. Seeing that an agreement was impossible, Botz then closed the door on further discussions, leading the city to take drastic action against him.
Sadly, Botz isn’t likely to be the only landlord in Los Angeles to be threatened with an Eminent Domain suit. City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who chairs the council’s housing committee, is already looking for ways to use Eminent Domain laws to “acquire” other residential buildings with expiring affordable housing agreements.
It remains to be seen if Los Angeles can dispossess a landlord of his property simply because the landlord won’t do the city’s bidding. However, what can be said for certain is that, if successful, Los Angeles would face a serious housing shortage as private developers avoid doing business there. The cost of housing would rise for everyone, exacerbating homelessness and all the other problems that come with it.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem that Cedillo, his cronies, and tenant rights groups are considering the long-term consequences of their actions.