Rent Hikes Proposed at Housing Complex

In a move that may further undercut the city's effort to provide housing for its poorest residents, the owners of an affordable housing complex cleared the way Tuesday for rent increases of up to $382 a month.

City officials are scrambling to help residents at the 168-unit Rancho Ellen South apartment complex in El Rio.

But Sal Gonzalez, director of the Oxnard Housing Authority, said the city's efforts will not bring the apartments back into the city's thin pool of affordable housing.

"It's not a good thing," Gonzalez said.

Under an early 1970s pact with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the owners of the Rancho Ellen South apartment complex agreed to keep rents low in exchange for a multimillion dollar federal subsidy that helped them purchase the complex.

The owners prepaid the subsidized mortgage loan Tuesday, allowing them to charge market rents as early as December.

Housing officials say they have secured $832,000 in HUD rent subsidies for 151 current residents. The vouchers, known as Section 8 certificates, will allow those residents to pay no more than 30% of their net income for rent while the government makes up the difference.

But city officials say as many as 17 families will face full rent increases.

Monthly rent for a one-bedroom unit likely will rise from $360 to $650 or more, according to Topa Management Co., which manages the property. For three-bedroom units, which are in especially short supply in the city, monthly rents will jump from $443 to $825 or more.

Some say the conversion could lead to improvements at the facility.

Under the previous arrangement, the owner had no incentive to improve the complex because profit margins were too low, said Gary Clopp, housing director for Topa. Now, he said, market rate rents will provide money for needed improvements even as HUD vouchers allow most residents to stay in the complex.

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