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The unfairness of de facto boarding houses

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POSTED June 7, 2009 2:06 a.m.
Manteca creates neighborhoods designed for single family homes.

You buy a home in such a neighborhood with the expectation that they will be used as a home for one family or an extended family.

Then one day a home sells. Within a few days five different couples or individuals move in. What’s going on?

Some believe an investor may have bought the home and has converted it into a boarding house. In this example – and several others – what happened over the past five years are groups of people buying a home to live in. More often than not it is two families or extended families.

The mortgage lenders can’t say no. It would be discrimination if the combined parties sold have the income to qualify for the loan and the credit history. What about it being a single family neighborhood, you ask? It doesn’t matter. Federal law trumps local and state law when it comes to discriminatory lending practices.

There are cases, however, where investors have done just that – turned homes into boarding houses. One involved a Modesto woman who owned a home near Joshua Cowell School who rented to people who worked in a restaurant she owned. Because there were so many people living there, neighbors complained about cars parked across lawns and in their driveways.

The home has since gone into foreclosure but it underscores a growing problem. Adopted development patterns and policies call for single family housing in specific areas. A growing number of times, however, the homes aren’t being used as single family housing.

This can cause all sorts of problems as Lathrop discovered several years ago. They couldn’t figure why their sewer capacity was rapidly disappearing as the number of houses to justify the flow hadn’t been built in Mossdale Landing at the time. They found the answer. A disproportionate number of larger homes were occupied by two or more families.

This small but growing trend creates a heck of a lot of issues and problems.

If a home designed for one family and charged according for sewer actually has 10 people living there from two or more families, how is that fair to typical households? Every residential user is charged the same for sewer regardless of the number of occupants.

It seems Manteca and Lathrop should work toward policies were sewer is metered in new subdivisions. Ultimately everyone’s wastewater generation should be metered with monthly bills reflecting use.

Reduce the amount of wastewater from baths, showers, washing machines and such and you reduce the need for costly treatment facilities.

The proliferation of de facto multiple family housing ultimately could throw a lot of things out of whack including fees charged to make growth pay its way. They are based on the costs created to service a typical household. As more and more “boarding houses” or “multiple families” living in one home pop up, it undermines efforts to make sure growth pays its way.

From the perspective of maximizing land use, the trend may have some merit. It is, however, taking place by people not following the rules that everyone else does who buys into the neighborhood.

Does the trend demand immediate attention? Yes. The numbers aren’t that big but it is a growing trend. Sometimes we can’t all play by the same rule because of one law superseding another. However, it isn’t fair to give someone a financial advantage just because the rules don’t apply to them based on federal anti-discrimination rules regarding housing, if we’re all in this together, then everyone needs to pay their fair share.

This should also be a wake-up call for the city and builders alike.

The current housing development trends are not 100 percent sustainable.  They are not meeting the real needs of the buying public. You can see it in the McMansion prices that have collapsed much farther than all other housing types.

Manteca needs affordable multiple family housing – cluster homes, duplexes, triplexes or some other configuration.

What it doesn’t need is an unfair housing practice which is what having four or five families living next door to you changing the flow of the neighborhood while you and others are picking up part of their tab while you pay full freight.
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