Coronavirus: Caltrans should open its vacant homes to families


LA TIMES - For years, dozens of perfectly good houses in El Sereno and nearby areas have sat empty, even as California’s housing shortage has grown more and more dire.

The houses are owned by Caltrans, the state’s transportation agency, which began acquiring them in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for the 710 Freeway extension. But the proposal to “close the gap” — by building the final 4.5-mile stretch to connect the 710 to the 210 Freeway — was finally and definitively killed in 2017. That left more than 400 properties, including houses, apartments, commercial buildings and vacant lots surplus. Some are occupied by tenants, but 87 single-family homes are vacant.

Last week, a group of families that are homeless or at risk of becoming so decided to start moving into some of those empty houses. As of Friday, the group, which calls itself Reclaiming Our Homes, had taken over 12 houses. The occupations are both a plea for help for struggling families and a protest against the state’s failure to move faster to solve the housing crisis — which is obviously an even greater concern at a time when Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered people to stay at home to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Read the full editorial here.