EL SERENO, Calif. - As Los Angeles looks for solutions to its affordable housing crisis, some are looking no further than their own backyards.
Two and a half years ago, Jessica and Benjamin Coria bought a house on a quiet El Sereno street.
“For us, It was kind of a homecoming to come back to El Sereno,” said Jessica Coria, “to really go back to where our parents actually grew up.”
The couple recently decided to apply for the Backyard Homes Project through LA-Más, a non-profit urban design organization that created the program to be a “one-stop-shop” for ordinary homeowners wishing to build accessory dwelling units, or ADU’s, to be used for low-income Section 8 tenants for at least five years.
“We have high hopes,” said Benjamin Coria. “It seems like we're going to do a kind of a glorified garage conversion, and the footprint there is, I think, slightly under what their smallest one bedroom is.”
So far, LA-Más has received around 130 applications from across the city. Applicants who are chosen will be ushered through the building process, getting support with financing, design and building, and tenant placement.
Avital Aboody, Community and Policy Lead at LA-Más, said, “We are really excited to work with these homeowners that are taking our existing affordable housing crisis into their own hand and figuring out how they can share some of their space and provide much needed housing units.”
The LA-Más architectural team has created a set of affordable design options, whether the owners want to build a wholly new structure or to convert an existing one.
While most were supportive, some of the Corias' friends question why they would want to accept a Section 8 tenant onto their property, the stigma of low-income individuals possibly coming from homelessness still being a hurdle for some.
Jessica Coria explained, “For the individual who would live here, we would have a case manager who works with them to help them stay stable in their home. They can also act as a go-between potentially between us and the tenant if we're having any kind of conflict and I know LA-Más was also going to send us to training as property managers for Section 8.”
The Corias said they have no problem renting to a Section 8 tenant, and down the road the ADU will still add value to their property. “Thinking long-term,” said Jessica Coria, “that unit could exist for a future owner. With Cal State being here, you know, student housing is always hard.”
Although the Corias know they could rent an ADU for much more money at L.A.’s current rental prices, they are still committed to helping address L.A.’s housing crisis if they can.