Long Beach, News

Long Beach’s new Housing Element encourages CSULB to build their own housing

The city of Long Beach’s new Housing Element, which is amongst the first to be certified in the state, makes room for 28,000 units, 13,000 of which are reserved for affordable housing with no specific plan to support students.

“Students represent a temporary housing need, the heightened demand for rentals around colleges can impact the housing market when there is not a sufficient supply,” said Alison Spindler-Ruiz, acting planning bureau manager.

The plan promises to increase affordable housing in Long Beach to 11%, however many students do not normally qualify for these programs and public subsidies, she said.

She also said that a policy in the General Plan Elements, under Housing, encourages Long Beach State to create their own housing for students, staff and faculty.

Currently, CSULB has on and off-campus housing, enough to accommodate 1,372 of its approximately 40,000 students.

The element proposes to rezone parts of the city within three years, which facilitates building in low opportunity areas, increases density bonuses and makes room for accessory dwelling units, which may generate additional housing for students.

According to Chief of Staff Jack Cunningham, “there’s areas throughout the city where inclusionary zoning is an important focus in making sure that we’re able to develop more housing. That means that there’s more housing available intended to trickle down to each segment of housing needs throughout the city”.

Under the city’s current zoning laws there is only space for 3,000 affordable housing units and 13,000 moderate to above moderate units. They anticipate a need of 26,000 units over the next eight years, 11,000 of which need to be deemed affordable.

According to Spindler-Ruiz, the new sites to be rezoned are located in the greater downtown Long Beach, Central, West and North Long Beach areas, though, “some do exist in the communities surrounding CSULB”.

The Long Beach City Council has not passed any measures in the new plan that would directly alleviate the housing shortage and affordability issues students at CSULB may face, citing that it only makes up 10% of the population and plans on improving housing conditions overall.

“The need for affordable housing for students is more acute in Long Beach…housing programs that expand affordable rental housing opportunities and improve housing conditions will benefit students in general,” said Spindler-Ruiz.

Other cities within the Southern California region have passed their own measures to help reduce the housing shortage facing students.

Fullerton’s City Council passed a housing development project in January 2022 which provides 377 units of student housing close to the university campus.

In 2019, the San Diego City Council approved a privately-owned, 128 room apartment complex near campus, geared towards San Diego State University students.

Though rezoning the city provides room for the intended units, this does not necessarily mean new housing will be built, meaning it may take some time to see new building projects close to campus.

According to Spindler-Ruiz, zoning and land use regulation changes “can take five or more years to see an impact” depending on if property owners choose to take advantage of new zoning laws.

She said that currently, only 1,000 new housing units are built each year.

A law passed in September of 2021 penalizes cities, including Long Beach, who failed to meet the deadline to submit their 2021-2029 Housing Element and requires them to rezone the city by October 2022.

This has left much discussion in Sacramento about introducing a new state law that would allow them to rezone within at least three years, as originally intended, said Spindler-Ruiz.

For now the penalty still stands.

“It is unlikely we could complete all of the necessary community engagement and technical analysis needed to meet an Oct. 15 deadline,” Spindler-Ruiz said.

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