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HUD Funds Assure 71-Unit High-Rise for Senior Citizens : Housing: The project for low-income people will be built on a narrow lot on Florence Avenue near Atlantic Avenue.

March 05, 1992|JILL GOTTESMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BELL — Federal funding for low-income senior citizen housing in Bell, where two-thirds of the residents are tenants facing escalating rents, has been approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nearly $5 million will be funneled through the National Council on Senior Citizens, a private, nonprofit organization based in Washington. Bell officials say the city will kick in about $650,000 from community redevelopment coffers to help finance the project.

The 71-unit development will be built on a half-acre lot at Florence Avenue near Atlantic Avenue, city officials said. The lot, which now houses an abandoned Department of Motor Vehicles building, was purchased by the city three years ago.

The housing project will be owned and operated by the National Council on Senior Citizens for the next 40 years.

Plans have not been drawn, but because the lot is narrow, the structure will be a high-rise, said City Administrator John Bramble. He said the project should be completed by mid-1993.

Bell City Councilman George Cole, who has been working with HUD to secure the grant since last April, said the low-cost housing is sorely needed.

"The cost to live here has gotten so outrageous that it has become very difficult for a lot of seniors to live independently," Cole said. "Rent expense eats up incomes very quickly, especially for those on fixed incomes."

The 1990 Census showed that the median rent in Bell is $550, and Cole said it is not unusual for residents to pay at least that rate for a one-bedroom apartment. Fewer than 10% of Bell's 34,000 residents are over age 65, but Cole said most of the senior citizens have lived in the community for years and do not want to leave.

"They tell me, 'We have lived here all our lives, but we can't afford to stay.' The sad thing is they don't know where else to go," he said. Rents in the new development will be based on a sliding scale but won't be more than 25% of the tenant's annual income.

Bell is the only city in the Southeast area that does not have a HUD senior housing project, said Cole, who directs a regional senior citizen program based in South Gate that tracks housing availability in the cities surrounding Bell.

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