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Wrong solutions for 2 of 3 local housing markets

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POSTED February 6, 2018 1:34 a.m.

Perhaps the wrong generation is being tapped to find the answer to affordable housing needs in Manteca and other communities under the unique influence of the tech-driven Bay Area economy.
With all due respect, Manteca’s five elected council members, key staff members and even housing consultants the city hires are not exactly a diversified lot. How many of them don’t live in a traditional (as defined by post World War II) single family home and living arrangements?
It’s an important question as people tend to reference their own experiences and expectations when pondering solutions.
It’s clear what they see the housing solution as being. We see 600 plus free standing answers being built each year along with another 100 or so apartment units.
It is hard for younger generations to buck the idea that you need to shoot for the traditional tract home life when that is what they see and hear every day until, that is, reality hits when they are on their own.
The real question is what works best for young people as they make their way through the workforce in terms of lifestyle and affordability.
Manteca is indeed unique in terms of where we are located. If you doubt that follow national or even state reporting on the housing market. We are at a crossroads of not just the never ending booming Bay Area market and the strong agricultural influence of being in the world’s most productive valley but the Northern San Joaquin Valley that is stepping into a combo Orange County-Riverside County role that mirrors what happened in the greater Los Angeles area. Of the three northern valley counties, San Joaquin County is to the Bay Area what the Inland Empire is to LA in terms of being the major distribution center for a mega-region. At the same time we are becoming to the Bay Area what Orange County turned into for LA in terms of housing.
Drive around Tracy, Lathrop, Manteca, and even Stockton. Look at the big buildings under construction. As for the housing, south of the 120 Bypass in Manteca and River Islands at Lathrop are the undisputed hot spots in the greater Bay Area region for housing construction.
The fact we are a three-dimensional economy under the influence of the Bay Area, the emerging “new” Northern San Joaquin Valley, and vibrant agriculture means our housing options have to be multiple dimensional as well.
The dearth of available single family home construction in the Bay Area coupled with a tight rental markets for apartments is sending not just builders this way but the money from banks that are most comfortable with traditional tract housing and apartments. You can’t blame them as that is where the largest chunk— but far from all — of the consumer dollars are going. Those dollars overcloud over segments of the economy that if they were anywhere else would have builders striving to snare them.
Meanwhile there are subtle changes that builders are wise enough to detect.
Casitas —or what some refer to in-law quarters with a separated area that have a master bedroom suite — with a living area, small kitchenette and its own exterior access are being offered as options. Plus almost one out of every five new homes sold in Manteca have two households on the mortgage either as multi-generational families, two unrelated families, two individuals that may be in a relationship per se or just friends that are pooling their resources together. Then there are the buyers that are mostly single or young couples that buy large homes out of the gate and immediately line up people to rent rooms.
If that doesn’t tell you a part of the market is moving ahead and away from the traditional concept of single family tract homes nothing else well.
Younger generations are more comfortable with smaller homes on smaller lots with minimal yards. They don’t freak about dual master bedroom suites with large sitting rooms that flank common kitchens and main living areas that are shared by two couples. Versions of the single family homes such as one builder is pursuing at River Islands that have three homes built in clusters with minimal yards, private patios, and one home above the three garages for all three units are popping up more and more in areas with similar challenges to what Manteca is facing.
Ironically the generation that one might think would be less receptive to such changes — those over 60 — have for years lived in multiple family households that by definition could be one unrelated individual renting a room inside a traditional single family home. Often it is out of necessity, sometimes out of a desire not to be alone, or a sincere effort to help others.
That said it also underscores the fact we really have three homeless concerns in Manteca. The hardcore homeless, those who end up without housing for short periods of time due to that proverbial paycheck away from the street, and aging homeowners that are retired and still have mortgages or Social Security checks and/or pensions not keeping up with costs.
That’s why junior accessory dwelling units that can be rented such as garage conversions done right may be an acceptable option for Manteca to pursue.
At any rate, Manteca need not worry about the core Bay Area home buyer. They’re being taken care of. It’s everyone else that rents or buys that the city needs to give more serious thought to making sure as the city grows their needs are addressed.

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