State awards $35M grant for affordable housing, eco-friendly projects in Watts

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The city of Los Angeles has won a $35 million grant to fund affordable housing and new parks and environmentally-friendly projects in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts.

“Even though the need is great in Watts, we have never had significant investment in our community,” Perry Crouch, Watts Gang Task Force Board member, said in a statement. “We are finally getting a chance to make our community all that it can be after being overlooked for so long.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the grant award on Tuesday, calling it a “big step” toward “improved quality of life, a renewed focus on public health, and better access to affordable housing” in the neighborhood.

Some of the funding will go toward the redevelopment of Jordan Downs. The public housing complex is slated to be transformed into a mixed-income community with roughly 1,400 housing units, recreation centers, green space, and shops and a grocery store.

The first phase of redevelopment began in June, with the start of construction on 115 new apartments next to the existing housing complex.

The grant will also pay for energy-efficient retrofits throughout the neighborhood, solar panel installation, new parks, streetscape improvements, an electric-vehicle car-sharing and shuttle program for Watts residents, and a program to help prevent residents from losing their homes and being priced out of the neighborhood.

That latter program will focus on creating and preserving affordable housing, acquiring and rehabbing accessory dwelling units, and “providing tenant education services and foreclosure prevention assistance.”

All of the grant-funded programs are aimed at reducing local sources of air pollution, creating more secure public spaces, and making the community a healthier place to live, according to the grant application, which was filed by the city’s housing authority with help from the local environmental justice advocacy group, Watts Rising Collaborative.

Neighborhood advocates have pushed for environmentally-conscious upgrades to Watts for years, most visibly at 103rd Street in Watts. There, a local coalition has called for a makeover of the street that includes planting more trees, putting up new bus shelters, and installing more crosswalks.

Last year, the county agreed to contribute nearly $3 million to the project in order to settle a lawsuit brought environmental groups that argued the county was allowing contaminated stormwater to pollute its rivers and streams.

Via California Strategic Growth Council

Money for the grant, awarded by California Strategic Growth Council’s Transformative Climate Communities program, comes from cap-and-trade funds.

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