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Workshop addressing affordable housing need

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POSTED June 29, 2009 2:06 a.m.
The collapse of housing prices – plunging from a high median of $413,000 some 33 months ago to $178,000 today – have significantly increased housing affordability in Manteca.

Even so, there are still people who struggle to afford to rent basic shelter who are gainfully employed.

It is one of the issues being addressed as Manteca cobbles together its state-mandated housing element to address making affordable housing available for rent or purchase for the very low income (50 percent of median household income), low income (80 percent of median), and low to moderate (80 to 120 percent of median) income. Manteca’s median household income in 2007 was $59,585.

The next housing element workshop takes place Wednesday, July 1, at the Manteca Senior Center 295 Cherry Lane. The plan is expected to go to the Planning Commission by as early as late July.

Some critics have chastised the city for proceeding with a new housing element. It is required, however, to be in place by year’s end or else Manteca faces the very real prospect of being ineligible for state grant funds. In a worst case scenario, the state has the ability to suspend the city’s general plan – the blueprint for growth – which would effectively halt all new construction whether it is housing, retail or employment centers.

The plan being discussed at the workshop will identify various strategies the city could pursue to secure more affordable housing whether they are apartments, condos, multiple-family dwellings or single family homes.

Manteca’s affordable housing mandate is a bit trickier than most due to the long shadow cast by the Bay Area economy.

It turned much of the Northern San Joaquin Valley into the de facto housing element for Solano, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties.
That is reflected in the fact that the majority of homes bought in Manteca with low introductory rate loans were made to people who headed east over the Altamont Pass in the earlier part of this decade who may have pulled in $80,000 salaries in Bay Area jobs but prices of homes near their employment priced them out of the Bay Area market and into the Central Valley.

As a result, Manteca and much of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties helped address the Bay Area’s affordable housing needs while exacerbating the situation for low to moderate income people who live and work in the valley when it comes to securing housing to own or rent.

The foreclosure fallout, according a University of Pacific economist, has taken medium housing prices from roughly seven times the median income in Manteca three years ago to around 2.5 times making them much more affordable. That is why a record 1,165 resale homes last year were bought in Manteca with the vast majority being bought by local people. It is the reverse of three years ago when Bay Area buyers dominated the market.

Some strategies being mulled include increasing density in and around central Manteca where there are existing services. Possibilities include pursuing plans that allow residential units above new retail and higher density housing near downtown.

Staff, at a previous workshop, indicated that any affordable housing project has to be built to the highest grade, has to look like market place housing, and had to be maintained in order to be successful.

Since 2004 Manteca, primarily through the redevelopment agency, has spent $1.2 million to help 38 low-income households buy their own home, spent $500,000 helping rehab 88 homes owned by low-income residents and invested another $750,000 to upgrade 82 homes owned by low income seniors. They also have helped Eden Housing add 40 more subsidized low income senior apartment units. There are another 50 seniors on a waiting list

The city currently has almost 100 families on a waiting list for assistance to buy a home.
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