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Voices frustration a possible ordinance to address need is likely 2 years away or more
curran grove
The 166-home Curran Grove neighborhood built two decades ago on the southeast corner of Powers Avenue and Yosemite Avenue.

Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu made is running out of patience when it comes to the development and implementation of long-promised affordable housing initiatives.

After hearing the news at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that an affordable housing plan for Manteca won’t be tackled for at least two years because the city must first update its state-mandated housing element, he said he was “tired of hearing excuses” from staff.

Cantu at one point said “if it doesn’t get done while I’m mayor” he seriously doubted if an affordable housing plan would be implemented within the next 20 years because “nobody on this council is pushing as hard as I am (for affordable housing).”

No other council members voiced similar frustrations.

Cantu’s pointed remarks regarding what he termed as “excuses” such as the city doesn’t have the staff to do the work were made before the council accepted a $165,369 grant through the San Joaquin Council of Governments to fund the needed housing element update work being awarded to De Novo Planning Group.

Having a consulting firm do the work eliminates the need to hire staff to do it. The grant means the work will be paid for without tapping into the general fund that is used to cover the cost of day-to-day municipal services such as police and fire protection, street maintenance, and the upkeep of parks that aren’t funded by community facilities districts.

Development Services Director Chris Erias explained the housing element update is a required precursor to putting in place an inclusionary housing ordinance requiring developers of market rate housing to provide a specific amount of what was referred to in a staff report as “very low, low, and moderate income units.”

It is also needed as a precursor if the current council or future elected leaders want to impose a fee to pay for affordable housing programs that would essentially be collapsed into the price of new homes built and sold in Manteca.

Cantu has consistently emphasized the  biggest housing deficiency Manteca has is between subsidized housing and homes being built for the Bay Area market as defined by paychecks. His aim is for what he refers to as “attainable housing” for workers that are employed in jobs on this side of the Altamont Pass have smaller paychecks from buyers from the Bay Area.

Cantu, who retired from the City of Manteca after nearly 30 years as a city planner, more than a year ago drafted what he wanted to see as the city’s affordable housing plan. The plan called for significant fees on new development. Cantu circulated his plan to several builders.

In late 2019 Cantu appointed himself and Councilman Jose Nuño who is employed by a non-profit that builds and manages affordable housing projects to serve on a council subcommittee to explore affordable housing options.

The two in 2019 met with the Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley that represents the interests of home builders. Cantu noted they have made some recommendations and have indicated they are receptive to working with the city to come up with other potential market housing solutions.

The term “market” housing is a misnomer of sorts especially when applied to cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. That’s because there are two markets — those earning higher Bay Area paychecks that are being pushed out of the Bay Area to buy or rent and those who earn valley paychecks.

If the influence of the Bay Area economy was significantly smaller or non-existent, a different type of at-market home would be built in Manteca.

Cantu earlier this year said  it would be closer to what he grew up in — a 1,100-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms — and not a home pushing 4,000 square feet with five to six bedrooms and three to four bathrooms.

The mayor has repeatedly emphasized he isn’t pushing for subsidized housing but rather city regulations that require developers to build to the local market at the same time they build to the Bay Area market.

The subcommittee revisited the 2007 Workforce Housing Committee report that the City Council requested, accepted, and then opted not to do anything with given the housing crisis had hit awhile the committee was doing its work sending housing prices plummeting. Fourteen years later Manteca housing prices have exceeded the lofty pinnacle they reached in 2006 while apartment rents have skyrocketed.

Cantu chaired the 2007 committee. Also serving on the committee were Ron Cotton, Charleen Carroll, Ron Cheek, Kathy King, LeAnn McNabb, and Jay Holmes.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email