Long Beach housing plan aims to add 26,500 units in 8 years

Long Beach City Council members heard a presentation on a state-required plan to increase housing and housing affordability over the next eight years.

City Council members reviewed the plan at their Tuesday, Nov. 16 meeting, but didn’t yet need to approve the proposal. The city first needs to send this plan to the California Department of Housing and Development for approval and feedback and will need to vote on the final plan by February 2022.

The plan aims to build more housing units and build more affordable units with the ultimate goal to build 26,502 units as allocated by the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment, according to a city staff report.

“The lack of rent affordability pre-pandemic affects us all,” said Councilwoman Mary Zendejas at the meeting.

The city plans to accomplish this by expanding on new housing ordinances and laws that make housing more affordable and by approving new residential developments, the staff report added.

State law requires cities and counties to account for their future housing needs in the housing element of their general plan. Long Beach is in its sixth cycle of the housing element, which takes place every eight years.

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA, is part of a state law that requires counties and cities to set a housing production goal. For this cycle, Long Beach plans to build 26,502 new units. The city isn’t required to create all these units, but is responsible for creating regulations to allow private developers to build this many units, the housing plan read.

For the city’s fifth RHNA cycle from 2013-2021, Long Beach’s goal was 7,048. But the city only developed 4,169 units, or 59% of its goal. According to the city’s staff report, the new goal of 26,502 is meant to help make up for development shortfalls.

In total, the city has seven goals, 74 policies, 38 programs, and 86 actions to fulfill its housing plan for the next eight years.

Those seven goals are:

–Provide increased opportunities for the construction of high-quality housing;

–Mitigate government constraints to housing investment and affordability;

–Provide housing assistance and preserve publicly assisted units;

–Address the unique housing needs of special needs residents;

–Retain and improve the quality of existing housing and neighborhoods;

–Ensure fair and equal housing opportunity; and

–Ensure effective and efficient delivery of housing programs and services.

According to the city’s housing plan, wages are not keeping up with local housing costs, and four in 10 Long Beach residents pay more than 30% of their income in rent or mortgage payments. And more affordable housing units — and more housing in general — may be able to reduce the burden of housing on its residents, the city plan said.

At the meeting, several residents called on City Council members to add more provisions and protections to the housing plan.

“Housing justice now,” proclaimed Elsa Tung, from Long Beach Forward, a group focused on race and income equality.

Tung also asked Council members to consider adding a rent stability provision, tenant protections and to find more affordable housing sites.

Another local activist, Maggie Valenzuela also argued for more tenant protections.

“Housing was already a crisis for the community before the pandemic,” said Valenzuela, from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community.

The city has already taken several steps to increase housing and housing affordability.

In December 2020, the city approved a micro-unit program to address its housing shortage needs. Then in January, the City Council approved a plan to allow property owners to bring illegal units into compliance and receive permits for them with no penalty as long as they are rented at affordable prices.

The city also approved inclusionary housing laws, which it recently amended earlier this month, to create more affordable housing in the city.