Long Beach voters love a good bond.
Long Beach's Unified School District has gone to the bond well a couple of times in recent years, and won handily. The resulting construction boom certainly seems justified, even if total enrollment is declining.
Voters were doing it for the kids.
Long Beach City College — that's a special district too — has been averaging a building ribbon-cutting a month lately thanks to another bond. Voters approved that one too.
Voters did it for older kids.
Bonds are a preferred method for any government entity looking to raise a big chunk of cash, usually for buildings or infrastructure. Bonds, at least the ones mentioned above, are paid back through a small hike in property taxes. When selling them to voters, that "small" is emphasized.
Can anyone forget the infamous "it will cost less than a Big Mac" justification?
In recent years, affordable housing advocates and those working to end — or at least alleviate — homelessness have discovered bonds. Just last year, state voters approved a bond for $2 billion primarily for building affordable housing. (And big city mayors, including our own Mayor Robert Garcia, were up in Sacramento lobbying for more.)
Long Beach voters helped pass another initiative on the county level called Measure H. That one relied on a half-cent hike of the sales tax, and is expected to raise $3.55 billion over 10 years. It is being used for lots of programs to help the homeless in addition to housing.
The city of Los Angeles got even more aggressive. In 2016, voters there approved a $1.2 billion bond earmarked specifically for affordable housing for the homeless. It was supposed to build 10,000 units of supportive (read subsidized) housing. There has been some question recently whether that goal will be met, what with rising prices and the ever-increasing difficulty finding land to put those units on.
So, whatever else you might want to say bad about LA (insert Lakers joke here), it can't be said they aren't doing something about the affordable housing crisis. That bond issue comes up pretty much every time Mayor Eric Garcetti is asked what he's doing about the homeless population.
It comes as no surprise that activists in Long Beach want our city to emulate the behemoth to the north. A coalition of housing health groups is being formed, and has scheduled its first strategy session.
As far as I can tell, they haven't come up with a nifty name or acronym yet. But a workshop/forum has been set for Thursday, April 25, to talk about "Passing an Affordable Housing Bond Measure in Long Beach."
The organizer is a group called Long Beach Forward. On the flyer announcing the meeting, three others are listed as sponsors — Housing Long Beach, SCANPH (Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing) and Everyone In United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
According to an email invitation, "This workshop will bring together advocates, developers, elected officials, city staff, and regional experts to discuss the policy content and political strategies necessary to pass a meaningful affordable housing bond in 2020." Nothing like stating the goal directly, is there?
I should say this looks like an invitation-only affair and organizers probably weren't eager to get lots of publicity. I won't say where I got the invite to protect the guilty.
It's awfully hard to be against affordable housing — it opens you up to claims of insensitivity, lack of caring and the rest. But there's also the question of when is enough enough?
Contrary to what many advocates of the "Housing First" approach of attacking homelessness tell us, shoving homeless people into apartments is not the be all and end all of eliminating homelessness. For the vast majority of homeless people, without other help it will do little good to provide basic housing.
To be fair, others fighting homelessness, including our own Health Department-based continuum of care, are working hard to make sure those services are available too. Still…
There's little doubt Long Beach voters will see an affordable housing bond on the 2020 ballot. There's also little doubt there will be a caring, compassionate argument for why we should pass it and accept a little bump in property taxes to help our fellow man, woman and child.
I'd just suggest, as I try to do with all these propositions, that we study it a bit before making a decision. Do it for your kids.