Whose responsibility is it to offer affordable housing?

Developers don’t want requirements or restrictions on what they can build, but community activists in Long Beach think it’s their job to build in additional low-income units for new developments — and they want rules passed at city hall to compel the developers to do so.

Those rules weren’t approved by the city council this month, though a housing planning document the council did pass (the Housing Element) lays out a number of other measures.

My story on about this document and affordable housing in general was challenging to report. On the one hand, I spoke with down-and-out Long Beach residents looking for an extra leg up, like Soth Chum, who lives in a squalid, overcrowded apartment in Cambodia Town. Five of her children, most adults, live with her, some temporarily and some on a more permanent basis. She receives disability and doesn’t work.

Who is able to help her? City hall? Nonprofits? Or is it her job to help herself?

Southern California is notoriously expensive to live in. What market mechanisms can city planners take advantage of to the lower the cost of housing? Or are subsidies the only way to make sure everyone has a place to live that they can afford?

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