By Randy Erik Colón | After completing an undergraduate education, the common expectation is that you will find a job welcoming you with open arms and a decent wage, that you will earn enough to find your own apartment and have enough left over to enjoy yourself on the weekends.
More and more recent graduates are realizing this is more of a myth than anything.
With the world’s largest amount of student debt right here in the U.S., we leave college not only loaded with this debt, but as inefficient consumers because we have nothing to contribute in return. In the words of Noam Chomsky, tuition fee increases are a disciplinary technique that students then internalize–a “disciplinary culture”–that makes us inept components of the consumer economy.
With this, we are welcomed into an economy where looking for a good job is sounding more like a sick reality show, but without the confession cam to air out your frustrations. We are being termed the “boomerang generation” because, well, we come back home just as fast as we left it.
Some of us left home for college because we wanted to leave difficult situations that we unfortunately knew would always be waiting for us. I often stayed motivated as an undergrad away from home by thinking of a future with a job I loved, living in my own apartment, and building the life I always wanted.
I’m amongst the first generation in my family to receive a college degree. I believed that a university education would provide me with opportunities to succeed and do well for my community, but a college degree alone can no longer guarantee you a menial job let alone a middle-class job. Job availability, even for recent graduates, tends to be for lower-wage jobs, and the housing stock that’s available in Long Beach isn’t aligned for those jobs. Locally, 8 out of 10 jobs with the most growth in the next 10 years are in the service sector and wages that result in low-income households.
But the trouble is not just about finding good jobs. It is much more than that.
It is just as hard to find an affordable, safe, and healthy home with my qualifications, which is not only why I’m volunteering with Housing Long Beach and their Housing Element (HE) campaign, but also why I deeply believe their community platform will begin to meet the needs of all Long Beach residents.
The HE, as described by the City, is a “tool to guide communities in periodically thinking about and planning for present and future housing needs.” But the blunt reality is that de facto segregation still exists “since the city has largely concentrated downtown development on a tourism economy, essentially ignoring its industrial workforce and harming earning potential.”
HLB is working to make change for all Long Beach residents. Affordable housing isn’t just for recent graduates like myself, but for working families, the elderly, those with disabilities, and everyone who contributes to the multifaceted vibrancy of the Long Beach community. All of these facets of our community are deserving of affordable, safe, and healthy homes.
Right now, Housing Long Beach is making the voices and concerns of all community members central to the HE, the municipal road map that addresses housing production needs, housing affordability, the condition of the existing housing stock, housing segregation, fair housing, preservation of at risk units, and identification of appropriate sites for future housing development.
Wouldn’t anyone want to sign a pledge for affordable, safe, and healthy homes for all Long Beach residents?
Read the current HE, set to run through 2014, as well as Housing Long Beach’s research report regarding housing in Long Beach below
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