Habitat for Humanity buying previously-abandoned homes from 710 expansion project

In all, Habitat for Humanity wants to purchase 15, maybe as many as 20 of the homes and turn them into low-cost housing. 

These are properties previously part of the now-abandoned 710 expansion project.

To Bryan Wong, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of San Gabriel Valley, at least two of these homes will be ready for occupancy in three months.

"This is opportunity for people to buy houses that never in their wildest dreams would they have been able to buy a house," Wong said.

A little history: It was a great big dream of CalTrans and Metro for decades to extend the 710 freeway by 4.5 miles to Pasadena. They even wanted to build a tunnel. but years ago, the Metro board no longer considered it a priority and voted not to fund it anymore.

There are 460 properties CalTrans bought to demolish for the project. Early on, they started renting them out to people like Alex's parents and Rachel's. The agency offered Alex's parents a chance to buy. They said no.

Meanwhile, Wong closed escrow on two homes last week and are preparing to rehab them for sale. 

"The first step is we need to go and to a complete, total assessment. Some of the houses are not structurally sound and we may have to remove large portions or maybe even all of it," Wong said.

He adds the homes will cost less than $225,000 each and there will be a process, but there is one golden rule.

"The homes have to be affordable to the homeowner which means they do not pay more than 30% of their income as a low-income family towards housing expense," Wong said.

That includes the mortgage, maintenance and utilities. There are public meetings planned for June 13 and 22 to spell out what's involved.

The public meetings to provide information will be at the Barrio Action Youth & Family Center at 4927 Huntington Dr. N.

English-speaking versions will be provided at 6 p.m. on the June 13 meeting and 10 a.m. on June 22. Spanish-speaking presentations will be at 7 p.m. on June 13 and 11 a.m. on June 22.

CalTrans issued the following statement regarding the 710 expansion project:

"Caltrans is selling the SR 710 properties in accordance with the Roberti Act and has begun the process of adopting permanent regulations to continue the Roberti sales after expiration of the emergency regulations in September 2024.  All current residential tenants have received a Notice of Solicitation from Caltrans for an opportunity to purchase the homes they are renting. Caltrans has also leased 26 vacant homes to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) for its transitional housing program.

Caltrans awarded 37 state-owned vacant lots and unoccupied homes on August 2, 2023, in the El Sereno community of Los Angeles to the city, and to other private Housing Related Entities (HREs) that will use the properties for affordable housing. Caltrans expects to complete the sales process and transfer the properties this year."

Here’s some background on when Metro chose to not fund the project – Caltrans acquired the properties decades ago and planned to demolish them to make way for the 710 Freeway extension. But the proposal to "close the gap" — by building the final 4.5-mile stretch to connect the 710 to the 210 Freeway — was finally killed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2017. That left more than 400 properties, including houses, apartments, commercial buildings and vacant lots surplus. Some are occupied by tenants, but 87 single-family homes are vacant.

Caltrans owns approximately 460 properties (apartments, commercial buildings, vacant lots and single family homes), including 120 vacant properties and unimproved parcels.