New Homes Planned For Long Beach in Washington Area
Habitat for Humanity
By Dianne Anderson
Those who think they can’t afford a house right now might want to think again.
Habitat for Humanity L.A. recently finished its 10-home development, “Millennium Homes” on 14th Street between Pine and Pacific Ave., with new families set to move in by year’s end.
Next up, Dinesa Thomas-Whitman said the organization is encouraging the community to at least get in on the early train for new townhomes coming to Long Beach by 2024.
They are gearing up for construction of 36 more townhomes in the same Washington Neighborhood Revitalization program at 14th St. and Locust Street expected to start this Fall.
“Homeownership is the stability that creates generational wealth, and can be used to leverage wealth. We wanted to be intentional and unapologetic about supporting Black families’ homeownership,” said Thomas-Whitman, Ed.D serves as Director of Outreach, Advocacy, and Policy at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.
Scholarships are available for homebuyer education classes. The program is also active with their African American Initiative, guiding homebuyers through what is often a hard, complex and invasive process.
A lot of their clients have never had homeownership in their families.
“We have African American staff who are able to speak to people, connect, and assure them there are times that the homeownership process is scary and a lot of paperwork,” she said.
It has been important to get information, counseling and support out to the community, especially since the murder of George Floyd. She said the goal is to identify systems and policies that negatively impact the Black community from homeownership.
Interested Long Beach residents can connect with her program’s HUD Certified counseling agency to attend classes. If families get in early, they can be ready to compete when the units are completed, expected in 2024.
“If funding is still available, they could access up to $100,000 in downpayment assistance through CalHome funding we have been awarded at the state level,” she said.
Statewide, CalHome has $250 million in new funding for 2022-23 with $100 million more for the 2023-24 fiscal year to help programs like Habitat and others reach first-time homebuyers to handle the huge downpayment.
The local Habitat has worked intensely for the past five years in the Washington area on community development.
“We really embraced the community, working alongside schools and other organizations in the neighborhood to help improve the quality of life,” she said. “We realize the vision and build capacity in other aspects, that’s in addition to homeownership to the buyer education classes.”
At this point, the 36 homes are a conceptualization of a dirt lot, but once the application process opens up, the paperwork moves fast, usually within a three-week window.
She said time is of the essence.
“If they’re not ready, that’s not enough time to get ready,” she said.
Over the next two years, she encourages the community to participate. Homeowner counselors are available to help build a strong application through their Pathways to Homeownership classes.
She is also excited that four of the ten families moving into the new 10-unit development are already connected to the Washington neighborhood in some way. Families either live there, work at the middle school, or their kids go to school there.
Habitat houses are sold at market value, but with combined layered grants and loans, a silent second loan, and a forgivable loan from the state, families only pay 30% of their income on the mortgage, much less than paying for rent.
“Some people are feeling so discouraged by the market, honestly it’s unattainable for many families out here in L.A. County to be a homeowner, but through our program it is possible, and it could be you,” she said.
Classes run either six months, or buyers already prepared to purchase a home can get a certificate for downpayment assistance immediately with one eight-hour class.
In the last couple of years, her program has been about breaking barriers and increasing Black homeownership rates by partnering with Black organizations. While they cannot specifically exclude any groups, she said they can legally be intentional about reaching the community historically left behind from these opportunities.
Thomas-Whitman, also a member of Delta Sigma Theta, said they are working with local sororities, fraternities, churches, and the faith community. They also reach out to African American-centered groups at schools.
She said L.A. Unified has a Black Student Initiative with parents active in their children’s education.
“We want to come aside them to talk about homeownership. We need kids to have a safe place to live, for parents not to have to work for or five jobs to create that space so kids can thrive,” she said.
Tara, a Long Beach African American resident, described her own personal journey of earning her master’s degree but earning too much to qualify for any public assistance, until she worked with Habitat L.A.
“But for actually buying a home, or actually affording real rent in a decent neighborhood without Habitat, we wouldn’t have our home,” she said. “I have a beautiful home. I’m so grateful for the whole experience.”
To learn more, see Habitat for Humanity L.A.
Advancing Black Homeownership link https://www.habitat.org/our-work/advancing-black-homeownership
To see the 2022 Income Eligibility Limits https://www.habitatla.org/how-to-apply/affordable-homeownership-program-los-angeles/