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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Lawmaker Questions HUD Sale of Damaged Condos

May 02, 2000

NORTH HILLS — A congressman who represents North Hills plans to seek an explanation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development about why it sold condominiums in a damaged complex, some to buyers who didn't know how badly the property had been affected by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) "will be inquiring to HUD, as well as [Los Angeles] officials as to how this could have happened," David Foy, a spokesman for McKeon, said Monday.

"Certainly, something fell through the cracks for HUD to be selling earthquake-damaged condominiums to unsuspecting buyers," Foy said.

Much of the Nordhoff Townhomes complex at 9047 Langdon Ave. in North Hills should be torn down and rebuilt, according to two private engineering reports, issued in 1995 and 1999.

HUD officials in Washington have said the agency was unaware of the problems with the 50-unit complex until last month. The condition of the building remained a mystery to the agency, despite the fact that appraisers, under contract with HUD or a lender, looked at 19 HUD-owned units in the building between 1994 and this year.

HUD officials could not be reached for comment Monday. However, HUD had previously noted that the building was "green-tagged" by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety after the Jan. 17 temblor.

Bob Steinbach, the city's chief building inspector for residential properties, said that inspection was done rapidly, while the city was in the midst of a crisis.

"When we do a rapid evaluation, it's just a cursory inspection," said Steinbach, who said the city, like HUD, had been unaware of the two engineers' reports.

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