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Affordable housing concerns turn into foreclosure debacle

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POSTED July 4, 2014 1:18 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following is the last in a series recapping Manteca’s history.

 

The first decade of the 21st century took Manteca from one of the least affordable areas in the country for housing to ground zero in the foreclosure crisis in two short years.

At the historic peak of the existing housing market in 2006 the median price of a home closing escrow was $413,000. Housing prices were at 7.5 times the median household income making it one of the least affordable regions in the United States.

Three years later the median price on existing homes sold in 2009 slipped to $178,000. That was less than 2.5 times the median household income — a mark that anything below constitutes an affordable housing market based on standards used by housing economists. As 2009 drew to a close, the median selling price had rebounded somewhat to $184,900.

The fall in prices also accelerated sales going from 365 closed deals among existing homes in 2006 to a record 1,211 in 2009. The face of the average buyer in Manteca went from well over 90 percent Bay Area families trying to find an affordable house live to almost 100 percent Manteca and valley area residents. That’s when a record inventory of 651 homes was reached in September of 2007 and sales started picking up. Eventually it turned into an investors market with buyers paying cash undercutting qualified buyers with loans who were offering more.

At one point Manteca — along with the rest of the northern San Joaquin Valley region — led the trend in terms of housing auctions, landscaping being left to die, transients breaking into foreclosed homes and disgruntled borrowers severely damaging homes prior to eviction. A number of them did everything from rip toilets out to smashing bath tubs. Among the worst example in Manteca was a departing family that threw all of their household goods, furniture, garbage, and belongings they didn’t want in the back yard swimming pool.

Criminals took advantage of the situation to do everything from removing air conditioning units in broad daylight as no one — including the police — could determine who owned the homes since mortgages had been resold numerous times.

Police for the longest time were powerless to arrest trespassers for that very reason. Dozens of homes had copper wiring pulled from walls and tubs and sinks smashed as transients searched for copper.

Copper theft also impacted businesses in town ranging from roof top thefts of copper from air conditioning units, stripping copper from agricultural pumps that in turn triggered crop losses, to more than $250,000 of copper gutted from the former Alphatec building on Manteca Industrial Park Drive where one aggressive copper thief fell through a skylight to his death.

Manteca eventually was able to turn the tide with what the national media described as one of the country’s toughest laws on the books against foreclosures. Banks were threatened with fines up to $1,000 a day capping out at $100,000 per home if they didn’t secure and keep property maintained.

But while sales slowed down to a trickle in many parts of the country, the new affordability the foreclosure crisis triggered by zero down mortgages with adjustable rates and balloon payments as well as the so-called liar loans sales were picking up in Manteca and nearby communities.

Manteca also was able to pull off a miracle of sorts during the same time thanks in part of a decision to tweak the growth cap at the start of the decade to accommodate the 1,420-home age-restricted Del Webb at Woodbridge community. For more than three years, Dell Webb accounted for almost one in every three new homes built in Manteca.

Manteca for the past four years has led the Northern San Joaquin Valley in new home sales. In 2009, as an example, Manteca built and sold 304 new homes while at the same time there were 8 homes built in Modesto, 120 new homes built in Stockton, and six new homes built in Turlock.

The housing crisis triggered budget problems for the City of Manteca and Manteca Unified School District. Both cut costs to keep expenses in line with revenue.

The decade also saw four major investments in Manteca’s economy —The Orchard Valley at Promenade Shops anchored by Bass Pro Shops, the Big League Dreams sports complex and indoor soccer arena, the $120 million South San Joaquin Surface Water Treatment Plant that could allow Manteca to grow to 160,000 residents and the $52 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade.

Manteca’s retail landscape changed almost as radically as the housing market did.

At the dawn of the decade there wasn’t one Starbucks in Manteca. As the decade draws to a close Manteca had four Starbucks.

Among other businesses that weren’t in Manteca at the start of the 21st century that are in Manteca today are JC Penney, Target, Costco, Kohl’s, Staples, Office Depot, Joann Fabrics, and Pet Smart to name a few.

New major employers include Ford Motor Company’s distribution division, ADPS Package, Millards refrigeration Services, and Dryers Ice Cream.

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