Plans to provide new affordable housing for teachers and students in Long Beach are in discussion, according to Mayor Robert Garcia.
The mayor initially announced the plans during his annual “Building a Better Long Beach” event on Sept. 24.
“We currently have two projects in the pipeline for students and faculty,” Garcia said.
The first, according to Linda F. Tatum, director of developmental services for the city of Long Beach, is being referred to as the “Broadway Block.”
Located on Broadway in Downtown Long Beach, the building will provide approximately 400 units, 40 of which have been set aside as “affordable” housing units.
According to Tatum, these units are not reserved for faculty or staff, but the city hopes that as discussions continue, members of faculty at Long Beach State and Long Beach City College will be considered first for tenants. The project is scheduled to begin late 2019.
The second project will include the proposal made by Garcia at the “Building a Better Long Beach” event. Located next to the new civic center, the “mid block” project will incorporate new retail businesses along with housing units, according to Tatum.
“There are a number of projects that have a housing component targeted to the university,” Tatum said.
The approximately 60,000-square-foot building will include around 580 housing units, 10% of which will be designated as “affordable” units.
“Anytime we can help to develop and facilitate affordable housing we are excited, especially for teachers,” Tatum said.
According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average monthly rent in Long Beach from 2013 to 2017 was $1,198 and the average monthly income was $4,859.50, meaning residents spent nearly 25% of their monthly income on rent alone.
CSULB President Jane Close Conoley said something needs to be done to help students and staff.
“The price of housing in Southern California creates an existential crisis,” Conoley said. “We have to intervene and find partnerships with developers.”
A job board site places the average annual salary of a California college professor at $73,633, 8% above the national average. However, to live in Long Beach, 20% of their monthly salary would be surrendered to rent.
“Our teachers are being priced out,” Conoley said.
Although nothing has been confirmed, Tatum said the city is working hard to work with the developers of both projects to secure housing for teachers and staff.
The minimum wage in Long Beach is $15 per hour, $3 higher than the state, however, even if students, who make up nearly half of the hourly-wage workforce according to Pew Research, were to work 40 hours per week, nearly 50% of their income would go towards rent.
This level of economic struggle is something Conoley said she worries for students.
“[It’s] not good for people’s mental health or academic performance,” Conoley said.
As of now, plans do not include housing for Long Beach Unified School District employees, but Tatum said upcoming discussions will expand the scope of the project.
Chris Eftychiou, director of public information for LBUSD, said the increasing housing prices have had a direct negative impact on the district.
“We service 71,000 students now, but at our peak we had 98,000 students enrolled,” said Eftychiou. “Much of the decline is due to increasing housing costs.”
In a report by the California Department of Education, the average annual income for a teacher part of a unified school district was shown to be $74, 676.
“People want to work here,” Eftychiou said.
According to Conoley, a third project in the downtown area will provide more classroom space for continuing education programs and university classes.
Although still at the conceptual stage, Garcia continues to pull for area teachers and professors.
“The entire community can benefit from having educators in one central location,” Garcia said.
Plans for the Broadway block are currently being examined for safety standard regulations.