City Isn't as Overcrowded as You Might Think

Jon LeSage
ONE WAY that the city helps people find more affordable housing is directing them to information on developments under construction. The four properties currently included in the listing are expected to be completed sometime this year, such as the above Bridge Housing Development at 2338 E. Anaheim St.

Long Beach’s Planning Commission later this month will be considering granting approval to a new apartment facility near the 2nd and PCH shopping center that would add 600 market-rate apartments to the city. That would mean more people, more cars, more parking, and potentially for the rest of us, more waiting in an already busy section of town that’s already seen another construction project approved not long ago.

Are we “going to hell in a hand basket,” as our grandparents used to worry about?

Well, not exactly. While some of these building projects are raising legitimate concerns over the difficulty of finding parking spaces and getting stuck in traffic, the city’s population numbers have been in decline for a while now.

The city’s population was at 451,307 as of July 1, 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you look at Demographics by City Report by Cubit, a local business, the city’s population reached its peak at about 470,000 in 2015. We’ve seen a gradual decline ever since.

Not long ago, it looked like Long Beach would hit the half-million mark – and go from there.

The actual demographic trend falls in line with the overall trends in Los Angeles county, and it looks like it could keep going in that direction – or at least flattening out.

In the Los Angeles County Economic Forecast – 2022, released by the California Department of Transportation, the county’s population of 10 million residents is expected to decline to 9.8 million by 2027. That would be a decline of about 0.2% per year, or about 36,000 residents per year.

The report thinks it has much to do with how affordable housing has become less available for local residents. It’s certainly not affordable for some of them, and the prices won’t be coming down anytime soon.

The state of California has also seen a population decline in recent years. It fell to 38.94 million last year, a drop of 138,443 residents, according to state data. Last year saw the third year of decline in a row. Stories abound about Californians leaving for similar reasons – one of them being that you can find a cheaper, larger house to buy in Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and other states.

With 451,307 people, Long Beach is the 7th most populated city in the state of California out of 1,571 cities. That brings Oakland with 430,553 people and Bakersfield with 410,647 residents, right behind.

Taking a look at some of the demographics presented by Cubit, the largest Long Beach racial/ethnic groups are Hispanic (43.9%) followed by White (27.8%) and Asian and Pacific Islander (12.6%). World Population Review reports Black or African American residents at 12.6% of the city’s population.

The median age for Long Beach residents is 35.9 years old, according to Cubit.

Cubit also reported that median household income was at $71,150 in 2021. That’s slightly more than Westminster’s median at $71,108.

However, similar to other reports on Long Beach, Cubit says that 11.1% of Long Beach families live in poverty.

Overcrowding and Affordable Housing a Challenge

FORTHE, a nonprofit, independent, and collectively owned media platform serving Long Beach, in recent years has been informing the public about the impact of rising housing prices in the city. That goes for apartment renters and home buyers all across the city.

The City of Long Beach has been focusing resources in this area, too. The city’s Development Services Department reported in April 2021 that 11% of Long Beach residents, and 16% of renters, were living in overcrowded conditions.

FORTHE said that overcrowding was defined as having more than one person per habitable room, excluding bathrooms and kitchens. It’s even more severe for some – 6.9% of renters had been living in extreme or severe overcrowding at more than 1.5 persons per room. Major overcrowding problems tend to occur in communities of color and in old housing, according to FORTHE.

Quality of existing housing is a major concern given the age of the housing stock, according to the city.

Affordability of housing has been getting more difficult in recent years in Long Beach and the Southland. According to the city’s eight-year housing plan, household annual income needs to be about $90,000 for renters and $126,000 a year for home buyers, FORTHE reported.

Finding affordable housing was a campaign issue last year, and will continue to be so. The city has consolidated its resources on finding affordable rental housing, including tracking a map of affordable housing projects underway in Long Beach. Right now, four of them are estimated to be completed this year. Visit here to see these resources: https://www.longbeach.gov/lbds/hn/affordable-rental-housing/.

What Do the Economic Forecasts Look Like?

For quality housing to be available, you always need to see a thriving economy and a workforce looking for a place to rent or buy.

In November 2022, the city approved its Blueprint 2.0, a 10-year vision for “more inclusive and sustainable economic opportunities for workers, investors, and entrepreneurs in the City of Long Beach.” One of the eight focus areas was real estate development to improve the needed city resources and staffing to reduce the commercial property vacancy rate; and, overall, to create a more transparent, responsive, cost-effective and streamlined regulatory approval process to attract and grow real estate investment throughout the city.

To make some of Long Beach’s rundown older buildings to be livable, incentives need to be offered for developers to lead the process of restoring the city’s historic landmarks while also making them nice places to work and live. An example of this would be the historic Ocean Center Building on Pine Ave. and Ocean Blvd. in downtown Long Beach. It doesn’t resolve the affordability problem, but it does help bring more visitors, pride and capital to the city, which will bring more housing opportunities in the long run, according to developers and economists.

Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation’s 2023 Economic Forecast

“Moving Beyond the Recovery,” provides a cautiously optimistic look at how Long Beach and the Southland will likely be impacted by the state of the local economy.

Some economic sectors have been feeling the impact of COVID-19 and fears of an upcoming recession more than others. Leisure and Hospitality, Manufacturing, and Wholesale Trade have taken most of the impact. Tourism-related industries have been impacted, but current and future federal, state and local investments do present opportunities for growth and resilience moving forward, according to the report.

Other economic sectors have benefited from seeing robust growth coming out of the pandemic, including Educational and Health Services, and Professional and Business Services, according the report. Transportation and warehousing, retail trade, and wholesale trade, are part of the Professional and Business Services segment of the economy, with the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles representing a large part of it.

Both ports have been seeing growth in shipping since the worst days of COVID-19 receded, and that growth is expected to continue – with some softening of demand being seen this year. The ports will have to settle their union labor disputes if they want to see that growth continue.

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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