Developers seeking approval for large housing projects throughout the city may soon have to contribute to the city’s stock of affordable housing, either by incorporating it into their projects or paying into a fund that is used to help house low-income residents.

Currently, the city’s “inclusionary housing” policy — adopted three years ago – only applies to Downtown projects and those along the Long Beach Boulevard corridor north to the 405 Freeway, near public transit centers.

On Tuesday, Mayor Rex Richardson will ask the city manager to investigate applying the policy to projects citywide — something Long Beach had already promised the state it would do to meet aggressive housing goals by 2029.

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During contentious public hearings over the initial policy, developers and others contended that assessing these fees would halt housing construction at a time when the city desperately needed more.

But Richardson, in a memo to the City Council this week, said that “after near record years for housing submittals and entitlements, it is clear that inclusionary zoning in Long Beach does not depress production.”

It was not immediately clear how effective the policy has been at generating new affordable units, nor how much it has generated in fees from developers over the past three years.

The mayor, however, said that overall, a record 878 affordable units were approved in 2023 and a record 975 additional units were submitted for approvals.

A state report released Wednesday estimated 631 new units of total housing were actually built in the city last year, a slower-than-average pace compared to the state as a whole.

Under the current inclusionary housing policy, developers with projects over 10 units can either designate 11% of rental units or 10% of owned units as affordable, or pay a fee per unit based on the market price (in 2021, this was $390,400 for rentals and $430,000 for owned units).

Expanding this policy is one of a long list of recommendations the mayor will pitch to the full City Council on Tuesday, requesting that staff report back with a timeline for policies and potential implementation.

The goal, the mayor said, is to meet benchmarks contained in its Housing Element, which California requires to ensure cities are doing their part in adding to the statewide housing stock. According to that plan, Long Beach must add 26,502 units of housing before 2030, and 11,500 of those must be affordable.

“While 2023 was a record year for affordable housing submittals and entitlements, it will be challenging for the City to stay on track towards these state production targets without new policy tools to enable more and better affordable developments across the city,” Richardson said.

Other ideas the mayor wants to explore:

  • Expand the city’s first-time homebuyer program, which offers 100 households up to $25,000 in purchase costs. Officials in January previously announced an expansion of eligibility to residents with higher income levels.
  • Create an affordable accessory-dwelling unit program, which was included in the city’s current budget. The program would pair property owners with those who have housing vouchers.
  • Explore converting market-rate housing buildings into affordable buildings, and explore converting commercial spaces into housing in the Downtown area.

Melissa Evans is the Chief Executive Officer of the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal. Reach her at [email protected], @melissaevansLBP or 562-512-6354.