Rat infestations, high rents and overcrowding—these are just some of the housing issues that some residents in Long Beach face, according to Housing Long Beach (HLB), a local non-profit.
HLB hopes to shine a light on these issues in its 30-minute documentary film, The Cost of Living: The Face of the Housing Crisis in Long Beach, which explores the struggles of Long Beach residents to find affordable housing. The film premiered on Sept. 20 at the Art Theatre on Fourth Street.
“I am a widow with 7 children and 7 grandchildren,” said Long Beach resident Soth Chum. “I live on a fixed-income so I can only afford a one-bedroom apartment that I share with seven of my family members. I believe that my struggles are similar to many other people, and that by telling our stories we will be able to help get more affordable housing for Long Beach residents.”
At the premiere, community members and HLB argued that inadequate housing conditions like overcrowding directly impacted residents’ health, education, childhood development, as well as local economies.
“The film was a way to remind all of us that when we get into debates around what should be done by the City Council or any government body, we have to step back and remind ourselves that there are people and stories behind every issue,” said America Aceves, community organizer for HLB.
Every eight years, the city is required to develop the Housing Element– a comprehensive general plan to meet the city’s housing needs. The city is required by law to vote on the Housing Element before Feb. 14, 2014.
After research, HLB has recommended that the city implement the following strategies into the Housing Element:
1. Mixed Income Housing
New apartment and condominium developments should include a percent of units that are affordable to Long Beach residents. Mixed income housing is a critical tool for housing creation and it will help desegregate Long Beach neighborhoods. 170 cities in California have adopted mixed income housing policies. It is time for Long Beach to join their ranks.
2. Permanent, Local Sources of Funding
Long Beach currently has no local revenue sources for housing development. The City must identify and commit permanent, local sources of funding for housing development, such as money returning to the City from the demise of its redevelopment agency (boomerang funds) and fees on new hotel, retail, restaurant and office development to support a housing-jobs balance for Long Beach’s working families.
3. Rent Trust Account Program
Long Beach must identify cost effective ways to address the condition of substandard homes. A Rent Trust Account Program would allow tenants residing in substandard homes to pay their rent, or a reduced rent, to the City until their homes are repaired. This Program would be at no cost to the City, it would repair dilapidated units and it would protect tenants from unfair retaliation.
4. Healthy Sites
The City should collaborate with community stakeholders to identify appropriate, healthy sites for housing development in the 2014-2021 HE. Housing should be located in healthy, safe and un-segregated communities with access to parks and public transit.