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Money clouds perspective on Manteca housing

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POSTED November 1, 2009 1:24 a.m.
Money – or the absence thereof – isn’t just the root of all evil. It also has a wonderful way of clouding people’s perspectives.

Case in point is the reaction of some folks to Winters Colonial Estates on Woodward Avenue south of the Tesoro neighborhood. It is a five-acre project with eight homes per acre for a total of what is being dubbed 40 units of workforce housing.

It is being shepherded through the approval process by Ben Cantu, a retired senior planner who is now a private land use consultant and a declared candidate for mayor.

Some believe the design of the project is a recipe for “instant slums” while still others contend it will simply keep driving Manteca housing prices downward. While it would be nicer to see additional design enhancements for the project such as narrower streets and landscaped concrete alleys with garage access and additional parking in the rear, people need to get a grip.

Long before the foreclosure meltdown led to abandoned homes that were trashed, there were more than a few McMansions in Manteca that looked like dumps. They had the prerequisite eight cars in front – a fear that many seem to have with workforce housing. They also had unfinished back yards or junk piled up. One Manteca couple that tried to sell a home back in 2004 were prevented from doing so when potential buyers would look out the second floor windows and not see one but four adjoining back yards with weeds and junk. This was in the Primavera neighborhood and the homes in question were newer than the one for sale. The one for sale was on a lot with less than 6,000 square feet and the others were on 7,000 to 8,000 square foot lots.

Just because you have more money – or think you have more money through the value of your home – doesn’t automatically make you a neat or responsible homeowner.

The real difference, of course, is property maintenance. Assuming the fear is the workforce housing turning into rentals eventually, maybe in the future there should be a homeowners association attached to such a project. Better yet, put an HOA in conjunction with all new housing projects so someone will actually enforce the restrictions that go along with property to make sure front yards are maintained, cars aren’t parked on the grass, and the façade of homes are kept up.

As for the City Council approving Winters Colonial Estates is somehow depressing prices even further, you’ve got to be kidding. It takes years for a subdivision to go from conception to actual building thanks to California’s environmental review process. Cantu’s clients will be lucky if work starts in three years.

Even so, given fees and the cost of materials and labor the homes that Cantu is proposing might sell in the $150,000 plus range today assuming inflation is non-existent. That is being wildly generous on the low price of the smallest house. In other words, these homes can’t be bought by the people who are now spending $110,000 to buy foreclosed homes.

And, by the way, you’d want people like those people buying in your neighborhood. Not only are they occupying once abandoned property but they are fixing up yards and improving homes. They may not be putting in swimming pools, spas and pouring concrete over two thirds of the front yard, but the homes they are buying are looking much nicer and are in better repair than they were before they went into foreclosure.

It is a sad day when those in the middle class look down on the working class.

And if you really think city councils and such can control the economy and marketplace, next time around you’d better vote only for economists although that won’t do you any good.

The council under California law had no choice but to approve the Winters Colonial Estates as it met all requirements. They also have an obligation to encourage affordable housing.

It’s amazing but the people doing the most complaining about “depressed housing prices” they contend are hurt even more by the  fact there are 300 homes still being built a year in Manteca  aren’t even thinking about selling. They don’t like the idea their home is losing value which is money they never had.

If they’d really like to lose even more value, let’s stop all residential construction and throw the people working on building the homes, supplying the materials, and trucking them all out of jobs as well. That, of course will only create more unemployment and lead to even more mortgage failures and in turn depress housing prices even more.
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