Tenants might have to opt for tents
Rent increase in Long Beach incited eviction scare among residents.
April 5, 2017
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I moved to Long Beach from Pico Rivera almost three years ago to be closer to Cal State Long Beach and settle in as a new 49er. I had three roommates at the time, and like many students moving into this city, we understood that paying $1,600 a month for a two-bedroom apartment was part of the deal. Long Beach is a coastal city, so we assumed that the apartments in the area were all going to be around the same expensive price range.
Today, the Hathaway Apartment website lists the same apartment we rented at $2,065 per month. That’s a 7.5 percent increase for each year since I had it. And although that number may not look like a huge amount of money, for many Long Beach inhabitants, rent inflation has determined whether or not they get to call this city their home.
The issue at hand is the city’s action of discarding low-income residents for the sake of what Josh Dulaney of the Long Beach Press Telegram called “urban renewal,” in an August 2016 article concerning rising rent prices in some of Long Beach’s working-class neighborhoods. This concept of “urban renewal,” as a way to improve neighborhoods is essentially an enticing nickname for gentrification.
In the past decade or so, Long Beach has been experiencing a revitalization of community from investors who fund the building of high-end businesses. They predict the property value in the area to skyrocket as a result.
The percent increases matches or exceeds many shoreside cities in Los Angeles County, such as Santa Monica and Venice. This rent inflation can be attributed to an influx of income-based neighborhood cleansing. Long Beach is diverse, business friendly, and when compared to similarly popular cities in Los Angeles, still in the same ballpark for rent. Average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Long Beach is $2,058, which is catching up to the $2,313 average rent for a comparable spot in Los Angeles, according to Rent Jungle. This is where we see young entrepreneurs, hipsters, students and business professionals taking advantage of the “low” prices. They come to Long Beach with ideas of “beautifying” the city, leaving their mark, becoming part of its future. They build high end restaurants, bars and apartments, setting prices only the wealthy can afford to take advantage of.
This process of beautification essentially has neighborhoods being developed by and for wealthy people.
It’s causing distress on inhabitants who’ve been living in the city for years. They’re now subject to giving up their homes to new property owners set on hiking up rent prices to make more money off of wealthier tenants.
Affordable housing is arguably one of the most important aspects that this city should be addressing. Instead of building more expensive apartment complexes, townhomes and other housing projects, we should be allocating areas for low-income families and students that can’t keep up with the rent inflation. If a couple is spending almost 50 percent of their income on rent, it ultimately affects their contribution to the economy because the amount of disposable income becomes almost nonexistent.
Kevin Smith reported in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that seven percent is the average rate at which all of Long Beach’s rent has gone up per year. People living closer to hot locations like the CSULB campus and downtown area are responsible for paying hiked up rent prices due to the area that they’re in. There’s a higher flow of traffic, the surrounding destinations are desirable for students and visitors alike and Long Beach is considered an ideal beachside location – all somewhat justifiable reasons to pay more, if one were looking for some.
These reasons, though, are not justifiable enough for the city residents who’ve been burdened by the rising rent rates. Some apartment buildings are being bought off by wealthy investors who are less interested in the welfare of long-time Long Beach residents and more on profitable Angelenos looking to live in a relatively “affordable” neighborhood. Because landlords and real estate tycoons noticed the growing lack of vacancy in the area, simple economics fueled their decisions for hiking up renting prices: when the demand for housing is high while the supply is low, the possibility of profit increases.
Mayor Robert Garcia made housing affordability a priority in 2016, yet there’s a whole mess of factors that have yet to be considered. Low-income renters are subject to health issues due to the prevalent environment: dilapidated housing, lack of health resources in the area, air pollution from traffic, etc. Parks, public health and transportation all need to be improved in order for the tenants to maximize their ability to work and afford the areas that they’re being forced to evacuate.
In the meantime, our main focus should be fighting for low-income residents, opting for building low-cost housing units instead of selling them to the man.