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Goal: Making Manteca affordable
As prices rise, squeeze will start again on local workforce
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Affordability - in terms of being able to secure housing by renting or buying - is showing signs of starting to erode once again in Manteca.

Median prices on closed deals on the resale market have inched up $7,000 to $185,000 with mid-2010 just 16 days away after hitting a 10-year low of $178,000 in 2009. At the same time, the bottom priced new homes being built in Manteca are starting to see price creep. In mid 2009 prices on the smallest home offered in Woodside Homes’ Tesoro neighborhood northeast of Van Ryn Road and Woodward Avenue dipped to $199,000. Earlier this year they were at $205,000. Then several weeks ago the base price was upped to $207,000.

Rents are still flat with a number of vacancies. Historically in Manteca, when prices start moving on the new home and resale side they will follow six months to 18 months later on the rental side. Some real estate experts such as Tom Wilson believe foreclosure transactions have undercut the actual value of homes even in today’s market as many are being sold at prices below what it would cost to build. That means the price increases may stall once sale prices on foreclosures are more realistic. That also means the backlog of foreclosures has to be finally absorbed.

Regardless, home ownership affordability has eroded a little bit and eventually that will impact rentals.

The slight change in the housing market comes as the Manteca City Council is preparing to Tuesday to consider adopting an update housing element during a 7 p.m., meeting at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

State law requires cities to develop strategies and adopt policies to make sure all housing needs of its community are met.  While Manteca gets strong marks for addressing low-income housing particularly subsidized senior housing better than most Northern San Joaquin Valley communities, there is an issue as to whether workforce housing construction is being encouraged through city policies.

While the foreclosure meltdown essentially solved most affordable housing issues for Manteca in the past three years that won’t be the case when the economy rebounds and gains strength. The housing element is designed to have a plan in place to make sure that there is workforce and low-income housing so people can afford to live and work in Manteca in the future.

Based on 2008 figures, a household with two fulltime workers making minimum wage can afford $832 a month rent payment or a mortgage on a home costing them $123,352 or less. The rent payment is a tad more than a single room apartment while it is lower than half of the two bedroom apartment rents in the housing survey done by the consulting firm of Mintierharnish.

At the same time, an entry level teacher - if Manteca Unified hired one - would be able to afford $1,100 a month in rent or a home selling for $163,085. Although that is $22,000 below median there are more options for a teacher wanting to buy than a couple working full-time at minimum wage.

Firefighters, police officers and nurses based on Manteca pay can easily afford housing in Manteca. That wasn’t the case five years ago when housing prices were just over seven times the median wage in Manteca. Affordability is considered no higher than 2.5 times household income.

Departures from
designed single family homes
The City Council had a workforce housing committee propose solutions but set them aside when the foreclosure mess started sliding prices backwards.

The housing element identifies strategies that Manteca can employ in the future to increase the amount of affordable workforce housing which is not to be confused with low-income housing.

Those strategies are:
•Encouraging mixed uses in the downtown district with new construction having retail/office on the first floor and residential uses on the second and third floors.
•Having the city assist developers in the consolidation and assembly of identified parcels to build such mixed use projects. An example is the R Street Market in Sacramento that has a 52,000-quare-foot Safeway on the ground floor along with 16,000 square feet of upscale retail shops while the second and third floors are upscale housing.
•Encouraging more in-law units or granny flats on larger single family home parcels. They would require cooking, eating, sleeping, and full bathrooms.
•Promoting townhouses or row houses for infill locations with 12 to 18 units per acre. Such projects would share common open space.
•Allowing cottage clusters of four to 12 homes that are often less than 1,000 square feet and rarely larger than 1,200 square feet built around common open space with minimal private yards. They must have parking in separate areas or structures near the entrance to the cluster to minimize driveways.
•Encouraging work loft style projects that combine work space with living space. It is a takeoff on artist lofts but is designed purposely so people can reduce costs by running businesses out of their homes by having the space useable for both purposes by design.
•Allowing multi-family uses by right in commercial mixed use zonings.