Workers break ground on 102-unit affordable housing project in Central Long Beach

The Las Ventanas development, formerly known as the Pacific Apartments, is now officially under construction and is set to house 102 affordable apartment units at Long Beach Boulevard near Pacific Coast Highway.

Originally designed for 101 units, the AMCAL-produced and William Hezmalhalch Architects-designed project has expanded by one unit and includes 77 parking spaces, five for motorcycles, and over 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail space at a total cost of $42.2 million.

While the design, color choice, and overall aesthetic leaves much to be desired—it exemplifies the worst of the worst of mid-1990s postmodern apartment complexes—here is the breakdown of the units:

  • 62 one-bedrooms
  • 15 two-bedrooms
  • 25 three-bedrooms
  • 18 units extremely low income (ELI); 32 units very-low income (VLI); 50 units low income
The Las Ventanas affordable housing development in Long Beach. Rendering courtesy of William Hezmalhalch Architects.

The Las Ventanas affordable housing development in Long Beach. Rendering courtesy of William Hezmalhalch Architects.

This marks the third affordable housing project to break ground this year in Long Beach, behind the 48-unit Vistas del Puerto complex and the 95-unit Spark complex, both in Central Long Beach.

People often ask about what defines “affordable housing,” or what I mean when I say these units on “affordable.”

In one sense, it is misleading because I am not referring to general affordability; in other words, this isn’t about the lack of affordability for what is often called “the missing middle,” which refers to lower middle class residents and families who are struggling to pay rent but fail to meet federal definitions of low income households. This is what I call affordability with a little “a,” and it is something that we are, as a community and state, failing to address.

Most of the time I write about affordable housing projects, I am referring to Affordability with a capital “A” in reference to the federal definition. The Las Ventanas affordable housing development falls into that category.

And in that sense, the specifics depend on whom the housing is serving—some of the affordable projects coming online are reserved for veterans or those with special needs or seniors—and other certain caveats.

The federal department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as a home in which a low-income family is spending 30 percent or less of their income on gross housing costs, including utilities. Low Income families are defined typically as earning 80 percent or less of the median income within a given area; it goes down from there to very low-income (30-50 percent AMI), and extremely low-income (<30 percent AMI).

For instance, one of the projects I have often lauded, the Beacon Apartments, are available to seniors and others who qualify as low-income, very low-income, or extremely low income. Twenty-six units will be given to extremely low income families; 72 units to very low income; and 60 to low income families; two will be reserved for a manager of each building.

While not exact, roughly breaking down the Las Ventanas and applicability would go something like this: The median income for Long Beach is about $58,000 per year. Families defined as Low Income would be those that make $46,000 to $29,000; families defined as Very Low Income would make between $29,000 and $17,000; and Extremely Low Income families would make anything under $17,000 per year.

These would be the families, generically speaking and presuming the project was using the citywide average median income mark, that would be able to apply to live inside these apartments.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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