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Housing and Homelessness

Red Flags Raised Over Potential Sale Of Troubled Chinatown Housing Complex

 Six Asian seniors, five of them women, hold signs. The sign in the forefront reads “Seniors Fight Back” in English and Chinese.
Cathay Manor tenants attend an event outside their building Friday seeking federal support in their fight for better living conditions.
(Josie Huang
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The owner of the Cathay Manor affordable housing complex for Chinatown seniors is trying to sell. But poor living conditions at the 270-unit Cathay Manor has members of Congress calling for federal oversight of the sale process.

Why it matters: Cathay Manor is one of the only places left in Chinatown that provide affordable rents through federal subsidies to tenants — mostly immigrant seniors from China and Vietnam struggling in a gentrifying neighborhood.

The backstory: Don Toy, the owner of the Cathay Manor, has been under intense scrutiny by local and federal elected officials over the last year. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer criminally charged Toy last October for multiple violations of building codes, including two elevators that were inoperable for months — a hardship for seniors living in a 16-story building.

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Nearly a year later, no trial date has been set as Toy’s lawyers try to delay the court case. Meanwhile, tenants say elevators continue to break down, dirty water comes out of taps, and pipes leak into units.

Leila Wu, a volunteer with the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, said during Lunar New Year celebrations that the complex's management company — Barker Management Inc.— had the building sprayed with pesticides, forcing elderly tenants to move their furniture around for the crews and then leave their units for hours.

In a Sept. 30 letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Congressmember Jimmy Gomez and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla asked that other potential buyers be notified about Cathay Manor.

The members of Congress said they had become aware that Toy and his company, Chinese Committee on Aging, are in the process of transferring ownership of the housing complex to Lutheran Gardens Corp., “a non-profit public benefit corporation with a close working relationship” with Barker Management. (Lutheran Gardens and Barker Management share an address.)

What's next: Tenants await word on whether HUD will intervene in any sale of Cathay Manor. In the meantime, tenant advocate Cheung said residents will continue to agitate for better living standards. Toy and Barker Management have not responded to requests for comment.

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