Over the next few years, Cal State Long Beach aims to take more homeless students off the streets by implementing affordable housing options both on campus and in the city.
The university has ongoing negotiations with non-profit organization LINC Housing to develop affordable housing units on campus for low-income students.
Although the affordable housing initiative is still in its preliminary stages, President Jane Close Conoley revealed that the housing unit is expected to be placed near the Grow Beach Organic Gardens. The university currently plans to build 900 spots to accommodate students, according to Conoley.
The university is also in negotiations with two separate developers — Cliff Ratkovich and Tony Shooshani — to have downtown affordable housing options for faculty, staff and students ages 21 and older. The planned projects would be built on Third Street and Fourth Street near Long Beach Boulevard, and have a five-year window for discussion.
“That could be an option for some students … that are over 21,” Conoley said. “We’re doing that because we don’t feel it would be a good option for freshmen. There will be programming, there will be RAs, but it won’t be as secure.”
Carmen Taylor, vice president of student affairs, is a key player of the initiative along with Conoley and university administration. Although the matter is still being discussed, Taylor believes it is an important one as it addresses the needs of marginalized students and those who are struggling financially.
“It is no secret that living in Southern California is extremely expensive, and financial concerns can directly affect our students, their well-being and their ability to succeed in college,” Taylor said in an email. “Being able to identify ways that we can serve all of our students through a variety of means and opportunities, and in this case, providing creative housing options for students in need, aligns with our mission at Long Beach State.”
LINC Housing has collaborated with various Cal State campuses in helping students with mentorships and research. However, if the deal goes through, this will be the first real estate transaction that the nonprofit organization has ever had with a university.
“We don’t end with the real estate, we start there,” said Suny Lay Chang, chief operating officer of LINC Housing. “But it’s really about trying to serve people who live in the buildings and in the communities where our buildings reside.”
But gathering funding sources is tricky for both parties. Chang noted there are regulations on certain federal and state public subsidies, some of which either work in favor or in detriment to a student, that have to be taken into account.
“A big challenge of it is working through the regulations and making sure that we understand how it is being addressed and making sure that we can accept the funding,” Chang said. “By accepting that funding that we still are able to serve the broadest population of students possible.”
According to Conoley, the planned on-campus housing project is expected to look the same as the rest of the dorms.
There are no set costs for the project at this time, but Conoley predicts it to be in the ballpark of $30 million to $50 million, comparable to the cost of creating and renovating academic buildings on campus. Since housing is a “quasi-auxiliary entity,” it keeps the money it earns. So, the housing office is expected to front some of the costs in addition to other funding sources.
The Cal State Board of Trustees have already approved the addition of a new building for on-campus housing. What’s next for the project is to get the designs and financing approved by the trustees and the chancellor.
Other than the potential units provided by LINC Housing, Conoley suggested a rethinking of all the different dorms on campus. She noted the rising rates of rental properties around the city.
Research from CoStar Market Analytics revealed a 4.1 percent increase in average rent for multi-family housing units, according to a September 2017 Long Beach report.
“It’s putting up barriers to students…to really afford housing off-campus,” Conoley said. “That whole area of student housing is now under scrutiny where the major goal is to make it more affordable for more students to choose on-campus housing.”