The nationwide economic crisis may or may not be becoming a distant memory, but a housing crisis still exists within the city of Long Beach.
The Long Beach-L.A. area ranks fourth nationwide and third statewide in housing un-affordability. Twenty-thousand Long Beach families live in overcrowded conditions, and more than two-thirds of the city’s residents are unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to local non-profit Housing Long Beach.
Last week, the city held a study session for the Long Beach City Council around the 2013-2021 Housing Element, a state-mandated general plan that is renewed every eight years.
Housing Long Beach Community Organizer Jorge Rivera and Executive Director Kerry Gallagher spoke with VoiceWaves about what’s next for the Housing Element and how to move forward in improving affordable housing in Long Beach. Their answer are featured below.
What is Housing Long Beach’s next step in terms of the 2013-2021 Draft Housing Element?
KG: The final hearing is scheduled for Jan. 7, but we are actually working to get that changed because it’s really difficult for community members to come out that early in the year. Many are still on vacation or just getting back.
JR: We’re hoping that the council will instruct city staff to implement some of our propositions.
What issues are you advocating to be included?
JR: The first is one is the mixed-income housing ordinance. We would like for them to include an ordinance that would state that they would allocate a percentage of new development of apartment and condos for low-income and moderate-income families.
The second proposition is the Rent Escrow Trust Account, which supplements the existing code enforcement program and also offers protections for residents if they do report any maintenance issues. It also keeps up the quality of our current housing stock.
The third one is a permanent source of funds, because right now there isn’t any kind of funding going into The Housing Trust Account, and so we would like for them to allocate at least 20 percent.
Two thirds of Long Beach residents are unable to afford a 2-bedroom apartment. What do you think is the cause of this, and what do you think the solution should be?
KG: The cause is that we have a lot of lower wage jobs. We have a booming touring industry, which is great for our economy, but we have people making between $9 and $13 an hour, which creates low-income households. If we want to keep our workforce healthy and productive we have to create housing for those people.
We’re always going to have jobs that pay lower wages, but right now we need a place for those people to live, because it can’t always be in dilapidated, run-down housing. There’s a perception that building quality affordable housing brings more people into the community, when the reality, it improves the standard of living and the overall health of the community for the people who already live here. We’re not brining in new people when we construct new housing.
Do you have any concerns regarding the Housing Resources Budget for Fiscal year 2013?
KG: Absolutely. The city only has $137,000 for the housing budget, which builds just a third of one unit of housing. Until they find an actual dedicated source of money we will not see development for affordable housing.
The money that was returned to redevelopment agencies was about $35 million, and even though that money was in the city budget, 20 percent of it was required to be used for affordable housing. However, when that money came back there was no requirement and so the city just put it into the general fund. Since that money came from the housing budget, we believe 20 percent should be put back into it. If you write it into the Housing Element, that means in all subsequent years the RDA money that’s returned will be protected for affordable housing.
Do you have any other concerns regarding the Draft Housing Element?
KG: Our main concern is still finding a dedicated source for affordable housing because housing is such a central component of community health. If we want to be the world-class city that we strive to be, our city needs to start having more affordable solutions.
For more information about the Housing Element, go to www.housinglb.org.