Ground broken on South L.A. housing project

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By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Surrounded by more than 50 community members and stakeholders, co-developers Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County and Abode Communities broke ground Sept. 1 on a site that was once governed by a restrictive covenant that forbid the sale or rental to “any person of the African or the Mongolian race.”

“The Manchester Urban Homes groundbreaking is an example of how far we’ve come and how far we still must go to make sure every Angeleno has a place to call home,” Mayor Karen Bass said. “It is another important step forward on our longstanding commitment to delivering more affordable housing. 

“I want to thank Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County and Abode Communities for their work to serve South Los Angeles on this project and beyond.”

Manchester Urban Homes will feature 122 affordable family homes with a mix of multi-family residential and townhouse style homes.

For seven decades, the project, located at 8721 S. Broadway, was a community church led by Bishop Will T. Washington. He and his son, Pastor Thom Washington, developed the surrounding area with a barber shop, beauty salon and beauty supply stores. 

The goal was to have an entire block filled with spaces that offered economic development opportunities for the community. Years later, however, after economic downturns resulted in foreclosures, Neighborhood Housing Services bought the land with the hope to continue that legacy through the affordable rental housing to families in South L.A.

“This site is an incredible opportunity for restorative justice,” said Lori Gay, president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County. “It is an honor to reclaim this land, where Black and Asian people were once excluded by force of law, to the community as housing available and accessible to everyone. 

“That is the joy of living in Los Angeles, we all get to share in each other’s experiences, our rich diversity, and work together to transform our communities.”

In 2017, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents the area, held a series of community meetings to get input on improvements that could be made on Broadway between Manchester Avenue and Imperial Highway with many comments supporting affordable housing. Many of the items suggested will be incorporated into the project.

Onsite services include financial counseling that aim to support people in achieving their personal financial goals, building generational wealth and retaining their housing. Building amenities include a green alley, community garden, central courtyard and playground, a lounge area with a rooftop deck, community room, bike safety and transit ridership programs.

“It’s not every day that you get to set right the wrongs of history with a shovel and a patch of land, but watching Abode and NHS put up affordable homes for the people of South L.A. on the site of a racist restrictive covenant is what justice in practice looks like,” Harris-Dawson said. “Where exclusion was once law, inclusion will soon be real.”

Restrictive covenants were outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948, but were still widely and illegally used until the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Neighborhood Housing Services said it sought Abode Communities to assist in securing the remaining funds required for construction and financing, as well as provide ongoing property management and resident services after the project is placed in service.

“We are excited to partner with NHSLA on this transformative residential community,” Holly Benson, president and CEO of Abode Communities, said in a statement. “As a long-term owner and operator of affordable housing, we know that affordable housing investment in this neighborhood will serve as a catalyst for growth, economic, mobility and generational prosperity for decades to come.”

The project is expected to be completed in 2025.

City News Service also contributed to this story.

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at

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