By Lena Gonzalez
California is at the center of an unprecedented national housing shortage. Far too many of our Long Beach neighbors are struggling to find housing they can afford—whether that’s buying a first home or renting.
Home prices in Southern California have a year-over-year increase of over 30%, and the American Dream has slipped out of reach for most Long Beach residents. For those locked out of buying a home, renting isn’t any easier. In Long Beach, 57% of tenants are considered rent-burdened, spending more than 30% of their monthly take home pay on rent.
The crushing cost of housing also pushes many into homelessness. People are living in cars on city streets and in encampments along highways and many renters may soon face eviction in the fall, as pandemic relief wanes.
A recent poll shows that, “In 2021, nine out of ten Californians consider housing affordability a problem, and nearly one in three Californians are considering leaving the state because of it.” If we continue on this path, we will see more mega-commuting, more traffic, more greenhouse gas emissions, and more communities pushed into poverty.
Senator Toni Atkins’ SB 9 the CA Housing Opportunity & More Efficiency (HOME Act), provides a creative solution. SB 9 expands options for homeowners to decide for themselves how they might become a solution provider for our housing crisis. The bill streamlines the process for a homeowner to split an existing lot into a maximum of 4 units, creating new “missing middle” housing options.
The bill comes with important safeguards, including a requirement for owner occupation and a limit on lot splits on adjacent parcels controlled by a single owner, to prevent abuse. It also includes anti-displacement measures to restrict its use for the purpose of evictions, preserves historic neighborhoods, and keeps local control of zoning and design standards.
Long Beach Third District Councilwoman Price recently penned a letter published in The Grunion stating SB 9 is not the right solution because the housing crisis is a problem that only needs to be solved in other cities, not necessarily in Long Beach. As elected leaders, rather than creating misplaced fear about housing policy, we should provide constructive solutions and the truth is SB 9 will help, not hurt our communities.
Making lot splits and duplexes easier to build is in fact a return to our roots. The history of Long Beach shows District 3 neighborhoods such as Belmont Heights Historic District have beautiful homes that were developed on lot splits which made housing more affordable, and as a result communities there have thrived for generations.
I recently received a constituent’s letter to my office in response to the councilwoman, expressing support for SB 9: “In our Third council district, the past two years have only seen 32 new units, all of which are rated for ‘above moderate income’ and 14 of which are ADU’s –which represents only 3% of the total units built in the city during that time. As our city is not doing the best to meet our housing goals, our Third District specifically is doing worse.”
I hear in Councilwoman Price’s letter a common sentiment: a fear of change. I understand that fear; it’s why we’ve worked so hard to create key safeguards in SB 9. But truly damaging change is happening in our communities right now, and it will continue if we do not address our housing shortage. More people will be pushed to the brink and more of our kids will decide that Long Beach isn’t a place for them.
Saying yes to SB9 is saying yes to our neighbors and our future. We can do this together.
Read article online here.