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Senior Citizens In Chinatown Unsure Of Housing Fate As Rent Hike Looms

CHINATOWN (CBSLA) — Elderly residents in a Chinatown apartment building are anticipating a change in their living situation as they await a rent increase some say will put people on the streets.

"This rental increase will be the end of me," said Lee Kushner, a 65-year-old resident of the 123-unit Metro Chinatown Senior Lofts at Alpine and North Spring streets. He is one of dozens of senior citizens who received a 30-day notice of the 8 percent rent increase last month.

Kushner's rent will increase to $831 effective August 1, according to a letter from resident manager Joseph Angulo.

"That action will eliminate and put people's lives in serious jeopardy," Kushner told his fellow tenants at a meeting Thursday. "You will be unable to afford the expenses of living and pay rent at the same time, and those are the cold, hard facts."

The building, which is owned by Meta Housing Corp., is not a HUD property, but a tax credit building, which is allowed to raise the rent based on income in the area.

Meta Housing markets itself on its website as "experts in securing and leveraging state and federal tax credits, and in arranging complex finance structures that ensure the highest and best use of available funds."

However, it's purported "strong sense of social advocacy" might get lost on the tenants with these new onerous increases.

"I really worry about them," one woman said about her elderly parents who live there and both in their eighties.

"There's going to be a lot more homeless people if rents keep going on like this, and it's going to be among seniors, people who are dealing with a lot of physical problems and fixed income," said tenant Victoria Steele.

Aside from the anger, resident Erich Hunt told CBS2 News the tenants feel a sense of helplessness, a sentiment expressed across Los Angeles, one of the most competitive housing markets in the country.

"They're scared, angry, at the same time they feel uniformly helpless, which is the most scary thing," said Hunt. He organized Thursday's meeting and invited L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who helped delay the last rent hike by a couple of months.

"As councilman Cedillo helps take the lead on this issue, he's not going to walk in front of you, but he's gonna walk beside you, and we hope that the outcome is something that we all will be happy with," Cedillo's Chief of Staff Tony Ricasa told attendees.

CBS2 reached out to both Meta Housing and the management company Western Seniors Housing, but they had not replied as of Thursday evening.

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