LONG BEACH, Calif. — Nationwide, rents grew five times faster in 2021 than in 2020, and there is no sign of this easing.
In Long Beach, they're taking preventative steps to keep people from falling into homelessness.
Terrie — she asked us not to reveal her last name — is a resident of the newly constructed Vistas del Puerto, which is affordable housing for people with special needs as well as those at risk of experiencing homelessness.
For more than two decades, Terrie was a nurse, but her own chronic health issues started to consume her. Eventually, she lost her job-related benefits and yet through everything, housing remained her greatest expense and stressor.
When things got to be too much, she was granted temporary shelter in a motel room thanks to Project Roomkey.
“You see it, but you don’t think it could happen to you,” said Terrie.
Realtor.com’s most recent data found the average rent in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro is around $3,000. Now, Terrie is paying less than half of this.
“Before I was living paycheck to paycheck where rents were taking pretty much 90 percent of my money, and now I’m able to live again,” said Terrie.
That setup she used to be stuck in — spending more than half her income on rent — is not uncommon. It’s called being cost burdened. According to the California Budget & Policy Center, this describes about a quarter of the state’s 17 million renters.
That’s why Cristian Ahumada, CEO of Clifford Beers Housing, pitched the Vistas del Puerto project six years ago..
“It’s wonderful when you see a completed building, but the most significant thing is when you get to give somebody a key,” he said.
Terrie officially cut the ceremonial ribbon on Feb. 24 during the grand opening and already, every apartment in the complex was filled. There is even a waitlist.
“You just gotta remain patient, and patience paid off for me,” said Terrie.
Terrie represents one of almost 50 families calling Vistas del Puerto home, saved from joining about 2,000 people who call the streets of Long Beach home. This number comes from the city’s last count of the unhoused population, which took place before the pandemic.
The 2022 point-in-time count was just wrapped in late February. The results will not be available for several months.
There’s also some commercial space in the apartment building. The operators want to find POC-owned businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic to take these spots.