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Residents Urge Feds To Reject $108M Sale Of Deteriorating Chinatown Senior Complex

Cathay Manor, on the right, sits at the gates to Chinatown on Broadway.

Chinatown's Cathay Manor, which opened nearly 40 years ago as the neighborhood's first federally subsidized housing complex, is on the verge of a sale that residents say would reward owners who haven't kept up the property. 

Built into the $108M price tag for the 278-unit property is the anticipation of a 146% rent increase at the low-income senior housing complex whose sale would require the approval of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Residents and their advocates are asking HUD not to approve the sale to the nonprofit Lutheran Gardens Corp. and to deny their request for the rent increase, which would boost rents to $2,700 a month.

The proposed sale puts the price of Cathay Manor at $388.5K per unit. The median sale price in Central LA in the second quarter of this year was $309K, according to a report from NAI Capital.

High Street Residential's LA Plaza Village, across the street from Cathay Manor, is also for sale and is expected to fetch about $160M, or about $450K per unit, but it is considerably newer stock, having opened in 2019.

Because Cathay Manor is under the Section 8 program, taxpayers would pay a share of the rent increase, as residents put a third of their income toward rent under the program. 

But it would represent a hefty windfall for the owners, Chinese Committee on Aging Housing Corp. and its president, Donald Toy, who have neglected their building and their tenants, residents say. 

The building has had problems since shortly after its 1984 opening, but those issues have grown worse in the last few years, residents say. 

Last year, reports of aging residents essentially trapped in their apartments because broken elevators combined with personal mobility issues meant they couldn't leave the 16-story building. In 2021, more than 30 complaints were filed with the city's housing department, reporting issues like unmaintained electrical systems, missing fire extinguishers and damp rooms, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

“We stand ready, and we want to resolve to make the solutions good for everybody,” Toy told the LA Times in October 2021. “We have no reason to not want to repair or to not want to do certain things.”