State bill would block Caltrans rent hikes for houses along 710 freeway route

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Back in December, Caltrans announced it would begin selling off houses along the never-built 710 freeway extension to Pasadena, giving current occupants the first chance to buy. Now, state Senator Anthony Portantino has amended a bill to prevent the agency from raising rents for those tenants as they prepare to purchase the homes.

It’s not merely an afterthought; as the San Gabriel Tribune reports, Caltrans has recently been raising rents on the properties by as much as 21 percent per year. One longtime tenant told the Tribune the rent hikes were enough to force him and his wife to move elsewhere.

That’s significant because, while the homes will be offered at affordable prices to current tenants making under 150 percent of LA County’s median income, occupants can only purchase the homes if they are currently living there.

In a press release, Portantino said that his proposed legislation is meant to ensure that tenants aren’t forced out of their homes before they have a chance to purchase them.

“For me, the fair thing to do is to freeze rents and help facilitate the sale of the properties as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.

Caltrans bought the houses—located in Pasadena, South Pasadena, and El Sereno—more than a half-century ago, when the 710 was still under construction. After decades of delays and controversy, Metro’s Board of Directors last month decided against building a long-planned tunnel that would have bridged the gap between the freeway’s abrupt terminus just north of Interstate 10 and the 210 freeway through Pasadena.

Instead, Metro plans to implement smaller infrastructure improvements along the route, including more frequent bus service, better traffic signal synchronization, and the widening of key thoroughfares.

Even if current occupants of the homes owned by Caltrans are unwilling or unable to buy them, the agency plans to sell to nonprofits and private buyers willing to keep them on as tenants.

Caltrans is selling off homes along the never-built 710 freeway extension [Curbed LA]

Metro board squashes 710 freeway tunnel [Curbed LA]

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