July 21, 2016

Boyle Heights Residents Priced Out of Neighborhood

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Activists say prices are skyrocketing throughout the neighborhood east of downtown LA. By Ted Chen

Rising rent has a Boyle Heights community and activists worried about gentrification. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 21, 2016. (Published Thursday, July 21, 2016)

Residents and activists in Boyle Heights are worried about rising rents that they say are not only driving people out of their homes, but changing the character of the area.

The neighborhood just east of downtown Los Angeles is supposed to be one of the more affordable parts of the city, but that has changed for residents of the Michigan Heights Apartment Complex. Monthly rent for Joanna Perez is about to go up from $1,100 to $1,600.

“I’m actually scared, I’m actually worried,” she said. “I have a 7-year-old who goes to school just down the street. He starts school soon. I’m just really worried about where we’re going to go.”

Activists say prices are skyrocketing throughout Boyle Heights. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is now $1,450 per month – a 12-percent increase over last year. And they say even those who are protected under rent control are feeling the pressure.

“We’re seeing increased harassment, we’re seeing threats,” said Elizabeth Blaney of Union de Vecinos.

New developments are on the rise. More than 1,000 new units have been proposed at the Sears building.

Boyle Heights’ proximity to downtown LA is becomingly increasingly attractive. But activists say chains like Starbucks are driving out the businesses that defined this community.

“Family owned businesses that gave credit to people, that allowed you to run up a tab if you didn’t have money,” Blaney said. “Starbucks doesn’t do that, Walgreens doesn’t do that.”

The buzzword now: gentrification. Supporters argue many of the changes are improvements. While resident like Noemi Aguero worry the new Boyle Heights is leaving some people out.

“I guess it’s good for the people that have money, but not everybody is on the same page like that,” she said.

The manager of the Michigan Heights Apartment Complex said units being renovated justify the higher rent. We were unable to reach the corporate parent for comment.