By: Nicholas James, Sabrina Torres-Soto, Jose Roldan, Daniel Hanna
Sandra Meighan had made the move of a lifetime.
After high school, she embarked on the seven-hour trek to Long Beach State from Sacramento, excited for the brand-new opportunity. After living on campus for a few years, Meighan was able to finally move into an apartment with roommates during her senior year.
“It was really an experience that I was waiting for,” the psychology major said. “Having a place almost of my own was the next step in becoming an adult, especially after being with my parents and on campus.”
She enjoyed the Long Beach area; she was always at the beach in her free time as she never really lived close to the water in Sacramento. She loved the culture, the surroundings and the diversity that the city brought to life.
But as she grabbed her Bachelor’s in Psychology and stepped into the real world, she started to run into problems — primarily how she would be able to stay in Long Beach.
“The first few months was hard after I graduated,” Meighan said. “It was difficult to find work because there was not a large market for what I had studied for, and I was losing money to be able to stay in the apartment. I had to make a tough choice.”
Meighan eventually left the city of Long Beach, returning home to Sacramento shortly after.
“I hope to come back,” she said. “I just don’t know when, but I hope soon.”
Meighan is one of many graduates who return home after their collegiate careers due to the city’s increase in housing and rent prices, something that has become an issue across the nation.
The city of Long Beach has only recently begun working toward implementing affordable housing. According to an article by the Long Beach Post, the city needs to “make room” for 26,502 units over the next eight years and designate 60% of those as affordable.
Per the last allocation cycle, Long Beach is currently at 17%. However, the city’s progress toward this goal seems to have slowed after councilmembers unanimously approved the construction of market-rate apartments in Downtown Long Beach, with the development plan leaving out any affordable units.
The new policy, which has not yet been signed officially into law, would have rental projects in 2021 allocate 5% of units for very-low income housing, with approvals in 2022 designating 6% and those submitted in 2023 and after designating 11%.
Long Beach’s cost of living — nearly 43% higher than the national average — has also discouraged many from staying in the city. The median rent is around $2,470 for a standard three-bedroom apartment in Long Beach, while the national average is $1,537.
Sacramento’s cost of living, by comparison, is only 18.2% higher than the national average, as three-bedroom apartments average $1,764 per month.
In 2019, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia planned for two housing projects to create affordable living in the city. One location was set for a building off Broadway that would provide 400 units, 14 for affordable housing.
The second was supposed to be located next to the civic center, a 60,000-square-foot building to include 580 units, 10% allocated for affordable housing. Both projects have been currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to city housing aid Angelo Vargas, the cost of living has affected many Long Beach residents, causing many to continue living with their parents. He maintained that officials are “working to find a solution and assist the community that we serve.”
“It is worrisome,” Vargas said. “But the truth of the matter is, it is a known fact that it is cheaper to live with your parents, and that is applicable to any state. It costs less to live at home. It affects us tremendously.”
The Long Beach Housing Authority is currently assisting nearly 7,000 families and has been working with landlords around the city to implement more affordable options with the Housing Choice Voucher program. According to its website, the program is designed to help “very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing.”
Approved contract rents are set based on comparable rent for similar unassisted units and affordability for the individual client, according to the Housing Authority’s website.
Vargas said the money to support those in Section 8 housing, however, might not be enough to help out everyone in need. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, those who are on the waitlist for Section 8 housing may have to wait even longer, and officials remain unsure when this issue would be resolved.
“We are currently in a shortfall, which means we do not currently have the funds to assist everyone on the waiting list, nor can we accommodate increases or differences for participants who decide to move,” Vargas said. “We just ask that everyone is patient and is understanding at this time, especially with the difficult circumstances we have experienced in the last year.”
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/