By law, the current tenants can be evicted, and the new housing is usually way, way out of their reach financially -- even if they wanted to stay in the area.
So, where do they go and how do they afford it? These are questions with no easy answers.
Steve Luftman's a good example. A freelance graphic artist, he's been living in a Beverly Grove area 1930s building he loves for 18 years, now paying $1,800 a month for two bedrooms. The building's been sold, he's been ordered out by legal process, and offered $10,200 in legally-mandated relocation fees.
Luftman doesn't want to go. He says he's staying and fighting to make a point, but realistically knows that he may not have much legal ground to stand on.
"Los Angeles doesn't appreciate these buildings and these neighborhoods. These are people's lives, and the city is losing assets,'' he tells me.
He doesn't know where he can move to that isn't at least double what he's paying now. Not an option for him. Ironically, in his case, the purchaser is a development company run, in part, by a man named Matthew Jacobs, who is also the Chairman of the Board of the California Housing Finance Agency.
The agency's mission: to help renters and homeowners, not evict them. Jacobs apparently won't take phone calls or do interviews (I tried), but his spokesperson dismissed Luftman's concerns as those of a "disgruntled tenant."
Larry Gross, who's been trying to help Luftman and others in similar situations through his grass roots group called Coalition for Economic Survival, says the lack of affordable housing is a crisis.
"We build 10,000, but lose 19,000," according to Gross. "It's time for political leadership. It's time for elected officials to say enough is enough."
Luftman says "amen" inside his apartment, which is filled with boxes, books, records, clothes, papers, and everything you could imagine you have when you're in the process of sort of moving.
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