‘We need help now;’ Some residents frustrated by city’s timeline to get inclusionary housing ordinance passed

While Long Beach faces a housing crisis, planning officials are trying to figure out how they can create more affordable places to live in the city.

But to figure that out, they have to study the problem—a process that was first ordered by the City Council a year and a half ago and won’t be completed until at least fall 2019.

And some residents aren’t happy about that.

“We need help now … People are dying and our city is not stepping up to the plate to provide housing,” homelessness activist David Freeman said Saturday at a lively public meeting on a proposed inclusionary housing policy.

Such a policy would “require all new housing developments to include or provide funding for homes affordable to a mix of incomes,” according to the city.

This means that a certain percentage of units in a housing development—some cities have it set at 15 percent—must be affordable or the developer would have to pay an “in-lieu” fee to the Affordable Housing Fund.

The affordable units will be income-restricted and rent-restricted and potential residents would have to provide some type of income verification.

Inclusionary housing is not new: More than 150 cities in California have been using these types of ordinances for about 30 years, according to officials, and they warn that an inclusionary housing ordinance is not an “end all, be all” solution.

“This is one of the many tools that we are looking at to add to our toolbox to help with housing,” said Patrick Ure, manager of Long Beach’s Housing and Neighborhood Services Bureau.

Ure and his department, along with consultants the city hired to work on the ordinance, are conducting a study to design an inclusionary housing policy for Long Beach. Throughout the process, the city plans on holding more community meetings, pop-up tables and workshops to get feedback from residents through summer 2019.

The ordinance wouldn’t be adopted by the City Council until at least late next year. Ure said that the issue is complex, but for housing advocate Josh Butler, the process is far too long.

“We’re still looking at another year,” Butler said after the meeting. “We have a crisis—that does not seem like a crisis response to a crisis situation.”

He noted that the city’s response to the short-term rental complaints took far less time to turn into an ordinance and the city has been facing a housing shortage for years now.

His friend Senay Kenfe agreed, saying the city should have put a moratorium on new development projects and enacted a rent freeze while they sorted out a new ordinance.

Not everyone at the meeting agreed with Butler’s and Kenfe’s comments, however, and some were concerned about the city scaring away new developers.

Henri Winters, a Long Beach resident and landlord, said he’s committed to creating affordable housing, but the city has to look at basic economics.

“We need to find a balance to make it attractive to developers,” Winters said. “… A housing crisis is solved by building more housing and that doesn’t happen with the snap of a finger.”

Winters and his husband advocate with a nonprofit developer to build affordable housing for the LGBTQ community, which he said informed him on the process that developers—for profit and nonprofit—must go through to build new housing developments.

“You cannot just beat up on homeowners and developers,” Winters said.

Long Beach officials and consultants will continue community outreach until late summer 2019.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.
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