By Dianne Sundstrom
How will Long Beach handle another 26,000+ homes, its forecasted share of Southern California growth through 2029? You may want to have a say in deciding that process.
As required by the State, the City has begun an 18-month public process to update the Housing Element of the General Plan. The Housing Element Update (HEU) will build upon and revise the existing Housing Element goals, policies and programs to ensure that we can meet housing needs.
The HEU must be adopted by City Council and submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for approval by Fall 2021. In order for the State to certify the HEU, the City must demonstrate that current zoning has enough capacity to allow the development of 26,440 housing units.
In a multi-layered process, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), our regional planning body, assigns housing needs to each city within the six-county region (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura). Failure to submit a compliant housing element, hits the City with significant fines and the loss of transportation and affordable housing funding.
Major components of the City’s HEU focus on affordability, livability, social equity, and economic prosperity. These characteristics of the City’s population must be considered in developing housing goals and plans.
According to census.gov, total population of Long Beach is 462,628, total households are 166,813 and the number of people that constitute a household is 2.74. Total number of housing units in the City is 175,869, so the gain will be approximately 15%. Population growth from 2000-2020 was 0.1%.
Long Beach is a diverse city with people of color representing 72% of the population. Long Beach area median income (AMI) is $77,300; 30% of AMI is considered extremely low income, 50% very low income, 80% low income, and 80-120% moderate income. Overall, 64% of households in the City are very low to moderate income.
Additionally, 50% of residents are cost burdened, spending 30% or more of income on housing, and 30% severely cost burdened, spending at least 50% on housing. Sixty-one percent of Long Beach households are renters and are more likely to be people of color (80% of black and 69% of Hispanic households rent.) Since 2010 rent has increased 20%, while wages have been stagnant or decreasing for people of color yet increasing for whites.
Overcrowding has disproportionately affected people of color, and homelessness has increased faster than development of housing to accommodate them. These data clearly support the need to expand affordable housing.
The City’s 2021 - 2029 Housing Requirement, 26,440 units, is divided as follows:
Household Income based on Percent of AMI Housing Units % of Total
Very Low Income 7,122 27
Low Income 4,038 15
Moderate Income 4,149 16
Above Moderate Income 11,131 42
TOTAL 26,440 100
It appears that even if the City could meet the above construction targets, the housing needs of low to moderate income households would not be met; past performance supports that conclusion.
During the 2013 to 2021 housing element cycle, 7,048 new units were required. According to a report compiled by the City, only 4,131 units were built and only 15% of those were affordable units. In 2020, of the 951 units that were approved and permitted, only 4% were affordable units, all in the low-income category.
Challenges and Strategies
Although the City does not actually build housing, it can effect policy and thus guide development. Some solutions that have been identified include:
• Completion of the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance. In 2020, 506 building permits were issued for ADUs. Since it is illegal to use ADUs for short-term rentals, these units should add to the affordable rental pool.
• Motel conversions for temporary housing.
• Rezoning to conform to the Land Use Element adopted in 2019.
• Construction of micro units, typically one room.
• Implementing an “Enhanced Density Bonus” - permitting increased density in exchange for affordable housing.
• Completion of a homeless shelter, Atlantic Farms Bridge Housing Community, that opened in October 2020.
• Renter/Tenant protections including State laws and local codes.
• Inclusionary housing policy that promotes affordable housing (under consideration.)
But market factors and regulations are a challenge. Long Beach can encourage housing construction through streamlined permitting processes, as well as reasonable fees and development standards. The State legislature has made housing a priority and has passed several bills that have impacted local land use.
Several relevant bills are currently making their way through the legislature:
• SB6 addresses housing in commercial zones;
• SB9 addresses ADUs and lot-splitting;
By Dianne Sundstroits of residential density if the parcel is located in a transit-rich area, a jobs-rich area, or anSundstromWillH urban infill site.
For those interested, details of the bills as well as their status can be found on the State’s website: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/home.xhtml
City information/plans as well as a survey can be found at: http://longbeach.gov/lbds/planning/advance/housing-element-update/
If housing plans and the impact they may have on our neighborhood are important to you, please get involved! Let your thoughts be known to the Planning staff, Councilwoman Suzi Price as well as your State legislators.