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LINC in the News
ANOTHER VIEW: Healthy Housing Helps Us Thrive
Grunion Gazette, April 20, 2015
By Kerry Gallagher, Another View Guest Writer

Jobs, parks, schools and open space help define a city. But our housing — our homes — deeply characterizes a community. Our home is a space where we find rest, restore relationships and find a sense of dignity. Having a healthy home helps us thrive.

But many Long Beach residents do not have a safe and healthy home that they can afford. The lack of housing affordability in the city of Long Beach affects everyone: from college students to tech professionals, from health care providers to teachers. For thousands of Long Beach residents, their home situation will have a direct impact on their success and contributions to our city.

The lack of housing affordability is most prominent amongst renters. Sixty percent of Long Beach residents rent — that’s 280,000 people. And these renters help fuel our workforce. With a thriving tourist economy, jobs that show the most growth in Long Beach in the next 10 years are low-wage, service-sector jobs.

For housing to be affordable ¡ at 30% of one’s monthly income — for a person working full-time and making a living wage of $13/hour, monthly housing costs should be $680. What kind of housing can one find for $680? A garage, a trailer, or a room perhaps, but certainly not a quality living space for a family. To put it in even greater perspective, a person earning minimum wage would have to work 137 hours per week in order to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Long Beach.

So then, where will Long Beach’s workforce live?

As jobs increase but the amount of affordable housing remains stagnant, many workers are forced to make the move out of the city and into surrounding areas. Others choose to stay in the city, but are living in overcrowded conditions — like the 20,000 families who share homes in Long Beach — and lower quality homes. This means workers are making more sacrifices including longer commutes, poor living standards and overcrowded homes, in order to make a sustainable living.

Vanessa is a good example of the choices that working families have to make to try and secure quality housing. She and her kids lived in a home with cracked windows and no heating system, which made the winter months grueling. She held off reporting for fear of a rent increase, but finally decided to say something. After reporting the issue to her landlord on multiple occasions and no repairs made, she decided to take action and report the issue to code enforcement.

After a visit from a city inspector, Vanessa’s landlord decided first to raise the rent, and then issue Vanessa an eviction notice. She tried every way to keep her home, including fighting it in court, but with few resources as a low-income renter, she soon was forced to leave her home and live in her car. Vanessa became another number in our homeless community in Long Beach. With limited options within her price range, Vanessa is still trying to find a quality space to call home.

Our housing affects all areas of our life and community health. When people have stable, affordable housing, kids do better in school, workers are more productive and our local economy thrives. Housing is a building block of community health, and to be the best Long Beach, we must address the growing housing need.

Work is being done on the ground here in Long Beach and across the state and country to begin to address the need for safe and quality housing that is affordable for all Long Beach residents. Housing Long Beach is committed to improve, preserve and increase the supply of affordable housing for the wellbeing of Long Beach residents by training grassroots leaders and working with elected officials to find solutions to these problems.

We partner with nonprofit housing developers like LINC Housing and housing coalitions like HomeMatters to identify and work toward comprehensive solutions. We all stand together and urge individuals, businesses and nonprofits to join the movement and spread the word about the importance of quality, affordable housing.

For more information about how you support affordable housing, visit www.housinglb.org.

Kerry Gallagher is Executive Director of Housing Long Beach.

Copyright © Grunion Gazette
Reprinted with permission.