Apartment apocolypse? Rents are soaring in Los Angeles

What do you do when you can't afford a place to live? Well, you only have to look at a freeway off-ramp or an encampment under a bridge to see what extremes some people have resorted to.

For many others, life is not yet that drastic -- but their lives have been turned upside down after being evicted from long-time, affordable, rent-controlled apartments.

It's happening everywhere, but is particularly acute in Hollywood and other parts of L.A., which feature gorgeous old apartment buildings. They're being purchased by developers, who under a state law called the Ellis Act, can legally evict tenants as long as the building is to be converted to non-rental use.

We spent time with Silvie, who's one of a couple people left in the once-beautiful, historic "Villa Carlotta'' on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. She and all of her fellow renters are on the way out, but not without a fight.

She's paying about $1,300 for a one-bedroom and will have a hard time finding something similar elsewhere. Average rents for a two-bedroom in Los Angeles are now more than $2,200.

She said she needs more time, and what's happening isn't right. She's trying to publicize this issue as she concedes that ultimately she'll have to move. She's young and healthy, able to work and able to deal with this upheaval -- although reluctantly.

What about older people? What about those who can't just pick up and leave? It's a real problem. An interview with the head of the Los Angeles Housing and Economic Development Department, which oversees housing issues in the city, provided no answers or solutions.

There's a costly tradeoff between preserving "affordable'' housing and allowing a property owner to develop his property to make money within the law.

This is at least the third story like this I've covered in the past year. It's about ''fighting City Hall," or in this case, Sacramento, as perhaps the answer is to change the Ellis Act.

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