Long Beach may see more affordable housing units built throughout the city after council passed recommendations brought forward by the Affordable and Workforce Housing Group yesterday.
The recommendations approved by council included policies to implement existing legislation and new initiatives for housing development. Among these recommendations were ideas for micro-units, flipping abandoned storage units into housing units and covenants, also known as income-restricted units.
The council passed the recommendations in hopes of addressing the housing crisis in the city. Currently, the vacancy rate in Long Beach is at 2 percent, while the national average is at 8, according to city staff.
“The goal of the housing report is to recommend policies that may increase the production of affordable housing,” said Housing Development Officer Patrick Ure.
Affordable housing is defined by the government as housing that uses up less than 30 percent of a person’s income. Developing more low-income housing will create more opportunities for students, families and senior citizens to live in Long Beach, according to the council.
Mayor Robert Garcia expressed his approval for the recommendations, specifically saying that building micro-units in the areas surrounding college campuses could benefit students and allow them to live closer to campus for cheaper and eventually, buy their own home.
“I do believe there’s an opportunity to build, in the appropriate areas, denser units at a lower cost,” said Garcia. “I also support the idea of developing first time home buyer programs for not just city employees, but those across the city to provide them access in buying their first home.”
Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez of the 1st district echoed the mayor’s comments on micro-units and brought up the idea of income-restricted housing units, or covenants. Covenants guarantee that only people within a certain income bracket can rent out a unit for a designated amount of time, decided by both the city and the housing developers.
Gonzalez said that while her district holds over 1,700 covenants and 250 micro-units alone, the city needs to develop a way for this number to spread to other districts.
“It seems like we have a lot of those in specific areas of the city and it seems like they’re more in some areas than others, so I guess my question globally would be: how are we influencing these types of projects to be city-wide … so that people can have opportunities elsewhere,” Gonzalez said.
Although the recommendation was approved unanimously by the council, Jeannine Pearce of the second district amended section 3.6 and asked for the city staff to study it further before bringing it back to the floor.
Section 3.6 is a recommendation for city council to adjust the moderate-income bracket in order to allow more people to qualify for moderate-income and affordable housing. Pearce said that she wanted the resources available to go to people in the low-income bracket who truly need it.
“We have to ask ourselves: who we are trying to develop housing for? And when we look at the last several years, we’ve been developing market rate housing,” said Pearce.
The council will study the recommendations approved and decide which methods the city can afford to implement and return to the floor within the next several months.