Long Beach will explore mayor’s affordable housing ideas

By Christina Merino, Press-Telegram

Long Beach is moving forward with looking into what officials are calling “bold policies” to address affordable housing in the city.

The City Council approved for city staff to explore and report back on Mayor Rex Richardson’s Housing Innovation Policy Package during its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 7.

The policy package consists of five immediate and long-term actions that would allow to speed up development of new affordable housing, increase supply of affordable units, increase incentives for development of both ownership and affordable rental housing, support the preservation of existing affordable units, and for the Community Development Department to improve the affordable housing environment in Long Beach, according to the meeting agenda.

This package is also part of Long Beach’s Housing Innovation Week, which is a series of events showcasing the work that the city is undertaking to address the region-wide affordable housing crisis, taking place from May 6 through May 10.

Events include a roundtable on affordable housing, establishing a youth right to housing, and the announcement of the 2024 Homeless Point-in-Time Count results.

“Long Beach is a city that believes in building housing that is affordable for our residents to live in,” Richardson said in a statement. “We are pushing forward, full steam ahead, to ensure that Long Beach residents of all ages and backgrounds have quality, stable places to live.”

The mayor brought forth the group of policies to the City Council to further stimulate affordable housing production, according to the press release, including proposals to establish a right to housing for local youth and the adoption of citywide inclusionary zoning.

In the five policies, first would be to continue housing development acceleration strategies that were put in place during the city’s homelessness emergency declaration, which the council ended in February this year. For example, the city is now approving affordable housing development within 60 to 90 days which is an element from the emergency that could become permanent, according to the staff report.

Second would be to implement inclusionary zoning citywide – which would help collect and gain new affordable housing units from all parts of Long Beach and will be prepared for the City Council discussion and consideration soon, Richardson said during the meeting.

During discussion, council members asked city staff questions about implementing inclusionary zoning, specifically if it could emphasize building moderate income housing, also known as “workforce housing,” in Long Beach.

Although there aren’t many funding sources to create workforce housing, Director of Development Services Christoper Koontz said that city staffers will present any information available on the matter to council, such as the option to resume funding first-time home buyer programs.

The city is required to add 26,502 new housing units to its stock over the next eight years, per state requirements. And even though the city doesn’t have to build tall those units itself, Long Beach is responsible for creating regulations to allow private developers to build out the area’s housing stock.

Councilmember Duggan also requested that any funding for any of the five initiatives whether structural, Long Beach Recovery Act, or any other type – excluding grants – be referred to the Budget Oversight Committee for review.

The third policy in the package would be to pursue a “Youth Right to Housing” program through the Long Beach Housing Promise – which is a partnership between the city, Cal State Long Beach, Long Beach City College, and Long Beach Unified School District to collaborate over the next five years on ways to ensure that quality, affordable housing is available for all residents, students, and families of students.

With the present momentum of the Long Beach Housing Promise, and the planned opening of the city’s first Youth Navigation Center this year, Long Beach is developing the infrastructure necessary to reduce and eliminate youth housing insecurity. City staff would leverage existing initiatives and work with federal, state, county, and educational partners to identify the resources and new housing models needed to define and establish a Youth Right to Housing in Long Beach, according to the staff report.

The fourth policy would be to increase homeownership support for Long Beach residents, to continue offering first-time home buyer assistance for low and moderate income families, as well as supporting seniors on fixed income.

Lastly, the city would explore innovative solutions for inclusive and sustainable housing, and partner with the Community Development department, Public Works, the Housing Authority, Southern California Edison, and other external partners. The mayor proposed 12 different housing policy ideas to explore under this part of the housing innovation policy package, including accessory dwelling unit approvals.

“Together these are strategies and solutions that we want to continue to further explore that will help provide stable, affordable, rental and ownership opportunities,” Richardson said, “so that Long Beach remains an accessible place to live and work and build business.”

During public comment, some residents shared their concerns that the policies did not include enough protections for existing tenants from housing issues such as extreme rent increases and eviction; developers also shared that there wasn’t enough to address state requirements that can delay processes such as CEQA.

However, the majority of residents and local organizations were in support of the policy package.

“These are bold actions that require bold solutions to a really massive problem that we’ve been facing for generations,” said James Suazo, executive director of Long Beach Forward. “Long Beach Forward strongly supports this item and we acknowledge that addressing the root causes of our housing and homelessness crisis requires providing affordable housing and at deep affordable levels.”

Council members also shared their support, such as Councilmember Megan Kerr that said housing is deeply personal to residents and the council.

“We all have a story and so the reason for dreaming around bold policies on housing is because it is the issue of our time, it is deeply personal,” she said, “and we know that our community here in Long Beach has been impacted for the last decade and continues to see severe outcomes for the people that they know and love.”

The City Council unanimously voted, 9-0, to move forward with exploration and future discussion on the housing innovation policy package.

All five items in the package will be brought back to the council at future dates. The inclusionary housing item will be put on next week’s agenda for further discussion, said City Manager Tom Modica.

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