Habitat for Humanity begins buying homes left abandoned by 710 expansion project


Habitat for Humanity aims to purchase 15 to 20 homes to convert into affordable housing. These properties were part of the now-abandoned 710 expansion project.

According to Bryan Wong, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of San Gabriel Valley, at least two of these homes will be ready for occupancy in three months.

“This is an opportunity for people to buy homes they never thought possible,” Wong said.

A bit of history: CalTrans and Metro had a long-standing plan to extend the 710 freeway by 4.5 miles to Pasadena, even considering a tunnel. However, the Metro board decided years ago to stop funding the project.

CalTrans had acquired 460 properties for demolition as part of the project. Initially, they rented them out to people like Alex’s and Rachel’s parents. Alex’s parents were offered a chance to buy but declined.

Recently, Wong closed escrow on two homes and is preparing to rehabilitate them for sale.

“The first step is a complete assessment. Some houses are not structurally sound, and we may need to remove large portions or even the entire structure,” Wong said.

He added that the homes will cost less than $225,000 each and must be affordable for low-income families, meaning they will not spend more than 30% of their income on housing expenses, including the mortgage, maintenance, and utilities.

Public meetings are planned for June 13 and 22 to provide more information. These will be held at the Barrio Action Youth & Family Center at 4927 Huntington Dr. N.

The English-speaking sessions will be at 6 p.m. on June 13 and 10 a.m. on June 22. Spanish-speaking sessions will be at 7 p.m. on June 13 and 11 a.m. on June 22.

CalTrans issued the following statement regarding the 710 expansion project:

“Caltrans is selling the SR 710 properties in accordance with the Roberti Act and has begun the process of adopting permanent regulations to continue the Roberti sales after expiration of the emergency regulations in September 2024.  All current residential tenants have received a Notice of Solicitation from Caltrans for an opportunity to purchase the homes they are renting. Caltrans has also leased 26 vacant homes to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) for its transitional housing program.

Caltrans awarded 37 state-owned vacant lots and unoccupied homes on August 2, 2023, in the El Sereno community of Los Angeles to the city, and to other private Housing Related Entities (HREs) that will use the properties for affordable housing. Caltrans expects to complete the sales process and transfer the properties this year.”

Here’s some background on when Metro chose to not fund the project – Caltrans acquired the properties decades ago and planned to demolish them 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 killed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority 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.

Caltrans owns approximately 460 properties (apartments, commercial buildings, vacant lots and single family homes), including 120 vacant properties and unimproved parcels.