LOS ANGELES - City leaders and residents in parts of the San Gabriel Valley are demanding answers after it was discovered that millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to patrol empty state-owned homes.
CHP officers are now guarding vacant Caltrans owned homes in what would have been the 710 extension.
A FOX11 investigation found that Caltrans spent nearly $9 million for CHP details between November and April and paid more than $4 million to Intercon for 5 months of private security. In total costing taxpayers more than $13 million to guard 120 vacant homes.
Some of the homes are in the district of U.S. representative Judy Chu. She told FOX 11 that the homes should have been converted into affordable housing ages ago instead of sitting empty in the middle of a housing crisis.
"It’s important for us to reach a resolution in cooperation with the cities for selling these homes as quickly as impossible," Chu said.
She says it’s time Caltrans stick to transportation business, and get out of the housing business.
"$13 million would have roughly been the same amount that could go to three emergency road repair projects on Route 2 in the San Gabriel Valley. So just think what that money could have gone too," Chu added.
In a statement, Caltrans blamed regulatory hurdles for stalling the sale of the homes but didn’t answer an email asking for specifics. It’s not the first time Caltrans has been slow with answers. In fact, FOX 11 first started asking for the numbers back in December. But it wasn’t until July when they heard from our lawyers that we finally got the $13 million figure.
The agency brought in security around Thanksgiving after squatters, protesting homelessness and housing prices, moved families in.
Neighbors have also complained the homes had become hangouts for criminals
Victoria Perez told FOX 11 she used to live and work as a babysitter in the house we were filming.
"She moved on and they closed the houses and it sat empty for years. It’s ridiculous they’re good houses. I’d pay rent and move in one," Perez said.
Caltrans says many of the homes are in bad shape and not safe to enter… much less live in.
But one woman who lives next door to one of the vacant homes believes that doesn’t justify the price tag for around the clock security.
"For a fraction of the cost they could fix up these houses and get the homeless in them," said one neighbor.