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Long Beach Updates “Housing Element” of General Plan

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, 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