There’s a pivotal City Council election on March 5, and homelessness — maybe the most visible problem in Long Beach right now — is going to be on a lot of voters’ minds.

So, when the Long Beach Post sent questionnaires to all the candidates, as it does each election season, homelessness was at the top of our list:

“After more than a year under a state of emergency in response to homelessness, it remains one of the most pressing issues facing Long Beach. What would you do differently to address this crisis of housing, addiction and mental health?”

Here’s a few excerpts of what we got back:

  • “The primary focus should now be investing funds in operations for a 24/7 response to homelessness.”
  • “[I will] call different levels of government entities, federal, state and county agencies for shelter and resources for mental and addiction issues”
  • “I’ll work [to] quickly shelter and stabilize people experiencing chronic homelessness, and promptly facilitate connections back to permanent housing”

Almost every candidate (you can read their full answers here) was sure to mention mental health and addiction, services to support homeless individuals, and lots of coordination between local, regional, and state partners.

There is a genuine need for all of these things! But they are all a response to the crisis at hand rather than a way to address the root of the problem, which is that we don’t build enough homes.

The main reason homes are in such short supply is because 62% of Long Beach’s residential land is off-limits to apartment construction.

With strict limits on development, the city of Long Beach, like most of California, hasn’t seen the construction of enough new homes for the last 30 years. Between 1991 and 2016 no more than 1,000 homes a year were permitted by the city, far fewer than the state said we needed to keep up with demand, according to, which tracks building permits.

The result, as vacancies vanish and still more people want to live in the city, is rising rents, pushing more people to the brink of being without a home.

Gregg Colburn and Clayton Aldern wrote about this in their book, “Homelessness is a Housing Problem,” the data for which you can explore here.

According to the authors, issues like drug use, mental illness, and even poverty rates, fail to explain why places like Long Beach have such high numbers of homeless individuals.

“Instead,” they say, “housing market conditions, such as the cost and availability of rental housing, offer a more convincing explanation.”

In Long Beach, rents spiked sharply after the pandemic, with several ZIP codes seeing an increase of 10% in just two years.

But then, partly because a whole bunch of new homes were built recently, rent prices this year are down 12% for a 1-bedroom and 9% for a 2-bedroom apartment, according to’s analysis of listings.

Those homes were built because of changes to zoning laws in the Downtown and southeast areas of the city to allow more dense construction, and none of the thousands of new homes going up in the near future would be possible without those changes.

Why aren’t City Council candidates calling for more changes like this?

Incumbents Cindy Allen and Daryl Supernaw both mentioned individual projects and things the city has done in the past, but didn’t speak about the broad changes that are necessary to fix rising rents.

And not a single candidate mentioned zoning or directly committed to supporting more development. Only four candidates mentioned housing, not shelter space, at all.

The closest we got to broad housing solutions was in the 8th District, where two candidates are running to fill the seat vacated by Al Austin.

“We need to … focus on addressing the root causes,” said Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, who said we should rapidly build affordable units, and convert “nuisance” motels into long-term housing opportunities.

Sharifa Batts said she would like to “promote ADUs and ensure the construction of new housing has a mix of market-rate and low-income units.”

Both of these get much closer to addressing the supply side of the issue, but still haven’t hit the mark on how to address this crisis.

But they’re not alone in California elections this year, as each of the four leading candidates for U.S. Senate have plans to address housing that barely mention zoning or land use at all.

The housing shortage is the biggest issue facing our city and state, and it’s directly responsible for exacerbating the homelessness crisis. But, somehow, the leaders tasked with fixing it never state the plain answer: We need to build more homes, and a lot of them.

You can’t “facilitate connections” with housing that doesn’t exist. We need a City Council that understands this issue and is ready to do what’s necessary to get homes built.