By: Iman Palm, Lauren Berny, Celeste Huecias, Andrea Ramos, Spencer Frank, Ashley Lozano, Julian Tack, Roger Flanders
With its close proximity to the beach and year-round summer weather, Long Beach is an ideal place to live for many people. However, finding housing within the city may be easier said than done, especially for college students.
Finding affordable housing off campus can be a challenge due to increasing rental prices in the city. According to RentCafe.com, an 800-square-foot studio apartment in Long Beach costs about $2,135 per month, and property management company RTI Properties Inc. estimates that rent in Long Beach has risen by 3.7% over the last year.
Although Long Beach State students can apply for on-campus housing, capacity limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have only decreased students’ chances of landing a guaranteed spot.
President Jane Close Conoley said the plan is to reopen the dorms to 80% capacity for the fall 2021 semester and leave the remaining rooms available for those who may test positive for COVID-19.
“We expect about 2,400 students to be living in the residence halls,” Conoley said. “The good news is that all the rooms, not just the newly built ones, will all have been refurbished. There is going to be a slight increase, but that’s just the regular cost of living that’s built into the fee structure.”
As of spring 2021, a standard single-occupancy room with full meal privileges comes out to $13,574 for one year. This excludes tuition and essentials such as books and supplies for classes.
Aside from a few student-friendly apartment buildings, the city of Long Beach doesn’t offer many affordable housing options for those in college, creating a struggle for young adults.
Kyle Lamento, a fourth-year electrical engineering major, used to live at Vibe @ Temple, an off-campus apartment complex fit for students.
“I was living with a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment in a fully refurbished unit. I was really lucky… you pay for your spot, not for the place itself,” Lamento said. “Each unit has four spots and it’s a fixed price, so no matter how many people are living there, you pay the same price. No matter what.”
His spot cost $750 a month, and parking was an extra $75. The apartment also came furnished with a table, beds, TV and more.
“All we needed to bring was basically bed sheets, clothes and kitchen supplies. The electric and water bill was also insanely low. It was no more than $8 a month,” Lamento said.
To combat the housing crisis, Councilmember Suzie Price offered possible alternatives for students who are having trouble finding a place to live. Price oversees Long Beach’s third district, where CSULB is located.
According to Price, the city is looking at several proposed accessory dwelling unit projects, which can be “utilized for student housing.”
These proposed accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs or granny flats, would be built in residential neighborhoods around the university, something not many residents are excited about. Some have shared concerns regarding noise, parking, trash and overall quality of life being impacted if students were to live in these ADUs.
While there are limited affordable housing options for students near the university, there is plenty of market-rate housing throughout the city of Long Beach. The owners of these multi-room properties still need to make a return on their investment and, to do so, will most likely price them at market value.
“If it was providing more affordable housing for students, then I think it would be a good thing because we don’t have a lot of affordable housing options, at least around the university, in the city of Long Beach,” Price said. “The market-rate housing is very expensive. If these units are market rate, then I don’t think it’s a good thing.”
To help mitigate the housing shortage in California and eliminate barriers to the construction of ADUs, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 68 into law in 2019. In conjunction with state laws, AB 68 allows for the approval of multiple units in a single-family residential home and authorizes parcel splits.
These units are able to cut some of the red tape that most encounter when expanding a property.
Pushback from neighbors
While ADUs are only being built in Price’s district at this time, residents from both District 3 and District 4 have raised concerns about multi-room student housing appearing in their areas.
“We don’t want a frat-sorority central,” Lillian Pereira said from her front porch. Pushing the hair out of her face with her purple glasses, Pereira explained her frustration.
Pereira, a longtime resident of the East Long Beach neighborhood, lives across the street from campus. The Walter Pyramid looms over her neighborhood, but it is no longer a pleasant sight to see every time she steps out of her white picket-fence home. Instead, it serves as a reminder of the ongoing expansion plans for the home across the street.
The plan is to convert the single-family home into an 11-bedroom, 11-bathroom residence for up to 22 people, an appealing option for CSULB students since it’s located just a quarter mile from campus at 6481 El Roble St.
Currently, homeowner Daniel Lewin is renting out the property to four CSULB students, who asked to remain anonymous. This is the second property Lewin has plans to expand, the first one already underway at 1720 Petaluma Ave.
Since the passing of AB 68, Lewin started Young-Lewin Capital, a private equity group dedicated to tackling the issue of insufficient housing “that limits the social and economic mobility of younger and underprivileged groups in our society.”
However, some neighbors aren’t convinced that Young-Lewin Capital is actually concerned with the housing issue as much as the potential to make a profit from building ADUs in single-family neighborhoods.
“We aren’t against students,” Pereira said. “We are against the placement [of the 11 bedroom expansion].”
A Possible Alternative
Despite pushback from residents, Lewin and his business partner, Shane Young, are still eager to develop these units.
Lewin described his plan and equity group as a “mission-driven thing in addition to an investment,” emphasizing how he feels equity and opportunity are two important factors in finding affordable housing.
“Shane and I are young people building housing for other young people, and in the face of some pretty intense boomer opposition,” Lewin said, referring to neighbors of an older generation. “It’s been an interesting journey so far, and it has only just begun.”
Resources for renters:
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles —https://lafla.org/
Long Beach Residents Empowered: https://www.wearelbre.org/
Fair Housing Foundation — https://fhfca.org/