LONG BEACH — Housing developers willing to put aside at least 20% of their projects for low-income units soon will be able to tap into a new $6.75-million housing assistance program.
To encourage the construction and maintenance of low-cost housing, the City Council on Tuesday authorized its staff to implement a housing development program by combining money from various sources.
Details of the program are yet to be worked out by city staff.
But for developers, the program could mean access to deferred-payment loans and, where necessary, outright grants, among other assistance, according to Roger C. Anderman, city community development director.
For Long Beach, this marks "the first time we pulled together (the various funding sources) under one program with this much money," Anderman said.
Earlier this summer, five low-income residents sued Long Beach for allegedly failing "to develop and conserve decent, affordable housing."
The residents' lawyer, Dennis L. Rockway of the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach, said he had not yet reviewed the new program. "We're looking forward to studying that," Rockway said.
City officials plan to assist developers by reviewing their projects' needs and "filling the gaps" with the various financial assistance packages, Anderman said. City planners also intend to actively solicit eligible developers, instead of waiting for them to knock on City Hall doors.
The program calls for streamlining the project approval process. The city would accept projects on a continuous basis and avoid the time-consuming bidding process that is usually required for each development.
Moderate-income home buyers and current owners of affordable housing are also eligible for program assistance. The aid could come in the form of deferred-payment loans and second mortgages. The program is designed to maintain and upgrade the already existing low-cost housing stock, Anderman said.
Redevelopment Money Used
Funds for the program include $2.4 million in Community Development Block Grant money not previously earmarked for housing and $2.5 million in Redevelopment Agency tax-increment money now set aside, as dictated by state law, for low-cost housing.
Until now, the city's primary method for financing affordable housing was the issuance of tax-exempt housing bonds. But more stringent regulations and reduced tax advantages for developers "have significantly diminished the feasibility of tax-exempt bonds as the sole financing source for affordable housing," Anderman wrote in a memo to the council.
The program will target areas in the north and southwest parts of the city, focusing on blighted sections, major traffic corridors and sites suitable for low-income senior citizen housing close to public transportation, shopping and other amenities.
In a related matter, the council heard a recommendation that Long Beach help set up a nonprofit housing development corporation by providing $100,000 in seed money. The private corporation would provide rental housing to families for 30% of their income, explained Bob Roxby, who presented the recommendation from the Council of Seniors, the Long Beach Area Citizens Involved and the Gray Panthers. The City Council forwarded the suggestion for review by the city manager and the housing and neighborhoods committee.
In his presentation Tuesday, Roxby noted that voters in 1978 approved a charter amendment to allow the city to own and operate up to 1,000 units for seniors. To date, not one has been built, Roxby said.
City Manager James C. Hankla said after the meeting that he would discourage city ownership or management of housing, and that at least 1,000 units for senior citizens have been built by private developers since the amendment was approved.