People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Councilman Rex Richardson, who represents Long Beach’s 9th District, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
On Nov. 3, 2020, we will vote in one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime. Voters across America are preparing to exercise their rights and decide the direction for the future.
The Long Beach City Council also has an opportunity to give Long Beach voters a voice on the most critical local issue affecting our families and neighborhoods today—housing and homelessness.
Last year, our point-in-time homeless count found that almost 1,900 individuals were experiencing homelessness in a single day in Long Beach. Fifty-two percent were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
More than half of Long Beach residents pay more than 30% of their income on rent. Fifty-eight thousand people are categorized as “precariously housed” and are living one personal crisis away from falling into homelessness.
Young adults, who grew up in Long Beach, are unable to put down their own roots in our city because of the high cost of housing, and a survey conducted by Cal State Long Beach identified that 1 in 10 students was experiencing homelessness.
Long Beach residents want solutions and a plan to address this crisis. In a recent poll conducted by the United Way, 65% of Long Beach voters supported a bond measure to address affordable housing and homelessness. Our residents understand the severity of this crisis, and we can’t wait and hope for a better solution.
As a father, homeowner and community leader, I am deeply concerned about the long-term costs of not proactively addressing our challenges.
Tonight, I am presenting a proposal to the Long Beach City Council that tasks the City Attorney with drafting bond measure language for the November 2020 election that will give voters a chance to invest in the production of affordable housing and capacity to address homelessness.
This proposal, if approved by voters, provides long-term solutions to our current crisis and critical investments into affordable and workforce housing for students, seniors and working families. It will help fund supportive housing, rapid re-housing units, nuisance motel conversion financing and shelters for those experiencing homelessness. It’ll free up funds to increase homebuyer assistance loan programs to assist Long Beach families in achieving the dream of homeownership.
We recommend the creation of a citizens oversight commission and mandatory audits to increase transparency, efficiency and accountability. We also place protections for low-income seniors over 65 and people with disabilities to minimize the impact on vulnerable communities.
We have put forth a contractual commitment to hiring local on the construction jobs created by this measure, through a project-labor agreement with the LA/OC Building Trades Council, ensuring we maximize the local economic impact for our communities.
This proposal is not a new idea, but rather the result of more than three years of research, collaboration and education by hundreds of Long Beach stakeholders. It is the response to recommendations made by the Long Beach Everyone Home Task Force and their comprehensive report commissioned by Mayor Garcia and unanimously adopted by the City Council on current needs and strategies to address our housing and homelessness crisis.
Additionally, Long Beach Congressman Alan Lowenthal explained last month how a recent federal court decision, Martin V Boise has impacted the way cities can respond to homeless encampments in our communities:
“The 9th Circuit ruling has made it clear: if we want to enforce our local rules and regulations on who can occupy public spaces and when, then… We must expand our city’s capacity to provide adequate alternative shelter for those who need it, as well as affordable housing for those on the brink of homelessness. That’s why I’m calling on the Long Beach City Council to create a dedicated source of revenue for the production of affordable housing for Long Beach families, seniors and students and increase shelter capacity for those experiencing homelessness… Everyone in Long Beach deserves to live in a community that is safe, healthy and thriving.”
I believe in the power of civic engagement and participatory government. The City Council has a duty and responsibility to engage in the democratic process and encourage participation. I’m asking my colleagues to engage in this debate and put forward the best plan possible. We should have faith that the voters will make the right decision, collectively.
This proposal tonight is not only about addressing housing and homelessness, but it is also an endorsement of democracy. My colleagues on the City Council should do their part in empowering Long Beach residents to decide the future of their city by giving them a voice at the ballot box.