A rendering of WHCHC's distinctive Courtyard at La Brea
A rendering of WHCHC's Courtyard at La Brea

Small City, Giant Impact

WHCHC is making a difference in West Hollywood

At just 1.9 square miles, West Hollywood is a unique California city. Serving the housing needs of West Hollywood for more than 25 years is a unique nonprofit group, the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, which can be fairly summed up by its tagline: "Doing wonders in small places."

The West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, or WHCHC, was founded in 1986 as property values increased within the compact city, tucked between Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. Today, WHCHC serves more than 600 residents in 15 developments that provide 389 affordable units. Working closely with the city of West Hollywood, WHCHC provides housing to residents earning less than 50% of AMI and a wide array of services to those who are aging, living with HIV/AIDS, recently homeless, or have other special needs.

"Though it is small, West Hollywood is unbelievably diverse," said Robin Conerly, WHCHC's Executive Director. "We have the famous Sunset Strip and high-end residential and shopping areas. But we also have poverty, along with a large community of people living with HIV/AIDS and a Russian-born senior community. The need for affordable housing is significant."

Most recently, WHCHC has been augmenting its social services with a growing number of resident service coordinators — staff members who act as "eyes and ears" to help residents with daily activities and provide referrals to social service agencies.

"It's exciting to see residents let go of their worries about having a roof over their heads, and lead happy and healthy lives in our units," Conerly said.

Though a relatively small organization with 12 employees, WHCHC has a significant impact on the health of its home city, according to Johanna Gullick, CDF Senior Vice President and Southern California Market Manager.

"WHCHC is an incredible asset to West Hollywood," Gullick said. "They go the extra mile for their residents — who tend to remain living in WHCHC developments for many years — and build high-quality properties that truly fit their surrounding neighborhood."

Virtually all WHCHC groundbreakings, grand openings and other events are well-attended by West Hollywood City Council members and the group's full Board of Directors, Gullick said — "that kind of engagement is a testament to the enthusiasm WHCHC generates."

Union Bank's CDF group has provided financing for three WHCHC developments: Hayworth House and Stovall Villa, both developments for seniors, and Courtyard at La Brea, a mixed-use site under construction with a boldly contemporary design.

As funding sources and developable land have declined in West Hollywood, WHCHC has broadened its horizons. Two developments are located elsewhere in the region — in Los Angeles and Glendale — and plans continue to expand beyond its base.

That said, Conerly's financial outlook is growing rosier, despite the state's elimination of redevelopment funding. Developer fees, support from L.A. County, and proceeds from West Hollywood's Affordable Housing Trust Fund provide meaningful revenue, and Conerly is heartened by proposed legislation to fund housing through a tax on real estate transactions. "We're looking into a future that isn't quite as bleak as we thought it would be six months ago," she said.