The Long Beach City Council is set to hear recommendations from the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Study Session at its upcoming meeting May 2.
At a February meeting, the council moved to conduct a study regarding the lack of housing available for low-income residents within the city, including the downtown area, which has been affected largely by a plan to influence the creation of such units.
According to Housing Long Beach, an advocacy group, the federal government defines affordable housing as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of an individual’s income.
“The Downtown Plan, which included 5,000 market rate units, did not include a single unit of affordable housing,” Second District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce said in a February email blast to constituents. “Our downtown residents were directly displaced as a result, and our moderate income residents are now feeling the impacts as well.”
The plan, adopted by the city council in 2012, provides a framework and regulations for economic development in the areas roughly enclosed within Ocean, Alamitos and Anaheim Boulevards.
Julia Gould, a legislative deputy to Pearce, said that while there has been criticism of the plan, it can’t be labeled good or bad as a whole.
“Generally, what our opinion is, is that more development and more businesses and more units into Long Beach is generally a good thing for people,” she said. “But, it shouldn’t come at the cost of those who are already living here.”
Gould said that when the study session makes its recommendations to city council Wednesday, her office will be looking into ways to increase local revenue sources for affordable housing.
One option, she said, is a fee for certain documents that have to be recorded with the city.
Another idea is to have an inclusionary housing fee for developers. When a developer begins construction, a certain number of the units have to be available under a certain income level either on site or off site. If a developer wants to forgo building the affordable units, an annual fee per unit would be paid.
The revenue from these fees would go to the city’s housing fund to increase the number of units available for low-income residents around the city.
“Those are just some options we’re looking at,” Gould said. “We’re also looking at units that we do have on the market that are currently affordable, that those aren’t being taken off the market via short term rentals, for example.”
Pearce’s office has also asked city council to study the effects of short-term housing rentals, such as Airbnb, on the housing market. The city council has been asked to look at how other cities have regulated the short-term rental market to make sure that big units aren’t being turned into “permanent hotels.”
Some options to consider, Gould said, is to max out the number of days a unit can be rented out to 90 days per year.
“The idea around that is, let’s say you’re a teacher and you go out of town for three months a year, we understand you have a vacant apartment and you want to rent it out for a vacation rental, you should be able to do that,” she said. “But what we don’t want is somebody getting into six months, nine months per year to rent out their unit, because at that point that’s a unit that could be on the market and could be rented out to a Long Beach resident instead of being used as a tourist accommodation.”
Currently, only 2 percent of units are available for rent in Long Beach, Pearce told a crowd Tuesday night during an Arts Council Open Discussion. Pearce said that nationally, the average is 8 percent.
Another possibility is to enact a transient occupancy tax, a type of tax hotels pay, which would act as a sales tax that would depend on the price per night and how many nights a person stays.
The majority of revenue from such a tax would also be allotted to the housing fund.
“There has to be a balance between economic growth, economic development and quality of life and to make sure that when we increase investment and increase jobs, that that that prosperity is shared across everybody who lives in Long Beach, not just for some people and not just for the people who are moving here,” Gould said.