Why Housing Matters
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a seven part series by Steven Chaparro for
 Longbeachize, also a publication of Southern California Streets Initiative and Santa Monica Next’s sister site. Below is the introduction to Chapparro’s in-depth look at the important role housing plays in our lives in general and in Long Beach in particular. Stay tuned for more of the “Why Housing Matters” series. – Jason 

What do you say that we take a trip back in time? Do you remember that day when that ominous man ominously approached you, kind of like a cheetah approaches a wildebeest, and asked you that ominous question?

“Why does housing matter?”

*Crickets chirping*

Um, okay—so there’s never been an ominous man who ominously approached you with an ominous question, but it’s still a good question, right?

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Why does housing matter?

In all honesty, I don’t think it’s a very hard question; it’s just may not be the question you’ve spent any significant time pondering, right? It doesn’t necessarily rank up there with the existentialist “Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life?” questions. But think about it: housing matters because it affects everything.

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As an individual citizen, or as a member of an affiliation or institution, we can all become stakeholders, visionaries, and makers of what housing in Long Beach will look like.
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Housing is a topic with a plethora of implications: financial, economic, political, and social for example. It also affects many decisions which are cultural, recreational, health, educational, and vocational in nature whether they be at the individual or institutional levels.

Housing matters because everything life begins with where and how you live.

Although I am a new resident of Long Beach, it hasn’t take very me very long to realize that Long Beach is a pretty great place to live. With all of its unique neighborhoods, it’s a hub of diversity that many cities would love to have. However, with its diversity exists a certain measure of inequality especially at it relates to housing.

Much of the new housing developed in the last decade has been targeted to the middle and upper class tiers of residents. Don’t get me wrong, having an architectural and a real estate background; I can really appreciate the development of high-rise and mid-rise residential development. They are architecturally beautiful, some with stunning views of the city and ocean, and close to many amenities of a burgeoning downtown.

But, on the other end of the spectrum, not enough projects are being developed as solutions for the disadvantaged resident of our city. I am happy to see affordable housing projects like the Long Beach Senior Arts ColonyCabrillo Gateway Apartments, and the Long Beach and 21st Apartments. They are beautifully designed and represent innovative and holistic solutions to the needs of our community. I know by experience that these projects take a lot of money, collaboration, time, and effort to make them happen. Unfortunately, the neighborhoods with the greatest housing needs require even greater attention to preserve and develop affordable housing.

So, how and where do we start?

This article is the first in a seven-part series covering the topic of housing in Long Beach. While I will address every strata of housing, I will pay special attention to affordable housing.

The foundation for this conversation is the housing blueprint drafted by the City of Long Beach called the 2013-2021 Housing Element. This document is actually one of the twelve chapters of the Long Beach General Plan which is currently undergoing revision as part of Long Beach 2030 whereby land use, mobility, urban design, historic preservation, and sustainable components are being written.

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Why does housing matter? It doesn’t necessarily rank up there with the existentialist “Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life?” questions. But think about it: housing matters because it affects everything. Housing matters because everything life begins with where and how you live.
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That sounds exciting, right? Just the type of reading that will keep you turning the pages into the wee hours of the morning.

While it’s admittedly a dry read—very dry—and perhaps only urbanism nerds like me would even think of pulling up a chair at Portfolio Coffeehouse to an afternoon of highlighting away in yellow, it’s a conversation I believe worth having. Frankly, I’d be very curious to see how much traffic it actually gets, and even at that, how thoroughly it’ll be read. Be that as it may, it’s a very important document because it provides a framework of goals, policies, and objectives, upon which housing development in the city is based.

So, here’s my contribution; my gift to you all.

Over the next several weeks, I will be breaking down the Housing Element. While I am not naïve enough to think that this series will inspire you to drop that chicken drumstick you’re gnawing on and dart to your computer to devour the intellectual treat that is the Housing Element (that’s long for drop-dart-devour). However, I do hope that it make you more aware of the context, constraints, resources, and plans to improve the livability of our great city.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet: you can do something about it.

As an individual citizen, or as a member of an affiliation or institution, we can all become stakeholders, visionaries, and makers of what housing in Long Beach will look like. In the coming weeks, we’ll talk about how that could look.

So, in the meantime, pull up a chair to your computer, bate your breath, and keep refreshing that Longbeachize page because…housing matters.