Habitat LA CEO Erin Rank, Councilmember Mary Zendejas, Mayor Robert Garcia and other officials break ground on a new housing development project in Washington neighborhood on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. The development project will include 36 units, two of which will be for very low-income residents, and 20 will be for low-income residents. Photo by Tess Kazenoff.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles broke ground on its largest development to date on Thursday, a new home development in the Washington neighborhood of Long Beach.

The Locust Avenue development will include 36 condominium units, two of which will be reserved for very-low-income residents, while 20 will be for low-income residents, and the remaining 14 will be market rate.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the California Department of Housing and Community Development, a household of two bringing in $47,650 or less would be considered very low income, and a household of two that earns more than that but less than $76,250 would be considered low income.

“The site has special significance to us for many reasons,” said Habitat LA CEO Erin Rank. “Number one, it’s right here in Long Beach, where Habitat LA built our first home 32 years ago.”

Since 1990, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles has focused on increasing affordable housing stock through building, rehabilitating and repairing homes across the region, including 156 homes in Long Beach.

In recent years, Habitat LA has focused its neighborhood revitalization efforts—created to address both a lack of affordable housing and disinvestment in neighborhood infrastructure—on the Washington neighborhood, where the organization celebrated surpassing 1,000 homes built in November.

In addition to developing housing in the area, Habitat’s revitalization efforts have included assisting Washington Middle School with various projects, doing repair work for numerous organizations, and during the pandemic, providing micro-grants to Washington neighborhood businesses, Rank said.

“The goal for Habitat LA is to really improve the quality of life for residents in this community, and of course, continue to build homes, because we know that housing is such a critical need, especially entry-level affordable housing, and to help this community grow into the greater community that we know it can be,” Rank said.

Mayor Robert Garcia addresses attendees during his last groundbreaking of a housing development project as Long Beach’s top elected official on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Photo by Tess Kazenoff.

By the time this site is completed, the organization will have invested $30 million of private dollars into the Washington neighborhood, Rank said.

“I feel very connected to this neighborhood,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “I think that the struggles of so many largely immigrant communities, I relate to, growing up as an immigrant and as a kid myself in a neighborhood very much like this one.”

As a Habitat LA tradition to celebrate each outgoing mayor, one of the homes will be built in honor of Garcia, said Rank.

“We know that as a city, we have to say yes to housing,” Garcia said. “I’m also grateful that as mayor, we have never said no to one single housing development that has come in front of us.”

Since being elected, the city has broken ground on and opened over 4,000 homes, and roughly another 4,500 are currently under construction or in the development process, exceeding the goal of getting 6,000 homes into the pipeline, Garcia said.

Councilmember Mary Zendejas celebrates the groundbreaking of a new Habitat LA project in Washington neighborhood on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Photo by Tess Kazenoff.

Construction on the new development, known as Washington Villas, will begin over the next few months. The project is expected to include four separate buildings of three-story units of two and three bedrooms, along with ground-level garages, and a total of 68 garage spaces available.

With a focus on creating housing that is also sustainable, the new development will include green features such as drought-tolerant yards, an energy-efficient heating system, insulation made of recycled blue jeans, low-flow plumbing fixtures and solar panels.

“I want to thank Habitat for Humanity for investing in this neighborhood, and really caring about this neighborhood,” said Councilmember Mary Zendejas of District 1, which includes the Washington neighborhood. “They don’t just build homes. They build community.”

“What’s important to highlight is that they really empower the residents to become empowered themselves,” Zendejas added. “That’s what’s super special about Habitat for Humanity. . . . I’m so excited for what’s to come for the 36 families that will be able to call this place their home.”