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Manteca adds 897 housing units
Non-single family homes power housing growth
Homes line northwest Manteca off Airport Way. The Manteca Unified school farm is in the foreground. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca – despite the mortgage meltdown that sent nearly 1,000 single family homes into foreclosure during 2008 - experienced its second highest year in terms of the number of new housing units that were built within the city limits since a growth cap was imposed in 1987.

There were 897 residential units added in 2008. It is a figure eclipsed only by the mega-boom year of 2000 when 1,079 newhomes were built. Last year topped 2002 when 868 housing units were added and 2003 when 842 new homes were built.

So where are all of the housing units?

You won’t find them where in neighborhoods with driveways, swimming pools, and meandering streets, Instead close to half of the new housing units built in 2008 could be found in three complexes targeted to serve senior citizens – The Commons at Union Ranch, Prestige Senior Living and Almond Court.

And the lion’s share of the single family homes that were built can be found in the age-restricted Del Webb at Woodbridge community that serves those 55 and older. Del Webb ultimately plans to build 1,425 homes in the Woodbridge neighborhood.

The economic savior for Manteca arguably has been the steady flow of consumer dollars of new Baby Boom residents who are in retirement or nearing it. While they are getting hit just as hard – or harder – than many other residents due to retirement accounts and stock dividends that they rely on, they typically do not have big mortgages or a lot of expenses related to raising a family. They tend to spend more proportionately on dining out, on services such as hair care, and in many soft goods sectors of the retail economy.

Since Del Webb started selling home in 2006, there have been 2,053 living units built in Manteca. Almost 45 percent of those units cater to older residents. Had the City Council back in 2004 not voted to create an exception to the growth cap to allow a limited number of additional age-restricted units to have sewer connection allocations issued, the number of actual living units built in those three years would have been closer to 1,200. Del Webb obviously would not have been started plus The Commons at Union Ranch may not have moved forward. The complex bills itself as “the place where parents of Del Webb residents can live.”

There is a potential for three projects to move forward this year that are in the process of securing financing that would add 475 living units including a 300-unit apartment complex on Atherton Drive at Van Ryn Road, below-market apartments at Woodward Avenue and Airport Way, and additional subsidized senior housing on North Main Street behind Dribbles Car Wash.

Manteca has 800 fewer apartments than percentage of housing in 1987
It could signal the start of a trend away from single family housing starts completely dominating the market to one where other types of housing such as apartments and attached single family dwellings such as duplexes and triplexes start catching up after 21 years of lagging substantially behind single family home starts.

•The single family home inventory in Manteca has grown 48 percent since 1987 when there were 9,038 single family homes to 17,509 today.

•Duplex numbers during the same time have jumped 12 percent going from 644 to 729.

•Triplexes are up 8 percent going from 192 to 207.

•Apartment units rose 23 percent from 2,640 to 3,421.

•Mobile home units added less than 2 percent going from 640 to 653.

Simply based on the housing mixed that existed in 1987 Manteca, the city has a deficit of about 800 apartment units, 250 duplex units, and 75 triplex units.

There is also nothing address the housing needs that mobile homes provide as essentially 350 more lots would have to be created to keep inventory at the 1987 level. Most of the mobile homes added have been modular homes that were placed on existing lots as allowed under a change in the state law in the 1990s to encourage more affordable housing.

The city’s housing element currently being updated is addressing general issues of housing needs. It is supposed to identify what is needed in terms of units – across the spectrum for everything from subsidized rental housing to affordable housing to at-market housing and other needs.

Although planning documents adopted by the city talk about housing mix, most municipal policies that have been put in place have catered to the concept of people owning single family homes.

At one point in the 1980s, a previous city council had zoning in place that basically made it difficult to build apartment complexes due to the the low densities allowed. During that time project such as Laurel Glenn that has huge expanses of open areas and Parkwood Estates – a single-story apartment complex – moved forward. They were able to work financially because they were on lower priced land near freeways. The state since then has made it illegal for cities to put in place exclusionary zoning that essentially makes it difficult to put in other housing types besides single family homes.

Part of the rationale for previous city leaders to quietly discriminate against multiple family housing was crime rates and other problems. Police statistics though, tell a different story. Well-managed apartment complexes such as Laurel Glen, Stonebridge, Tennis Villas, Paseo Villas, Park Place, and Parkwood to name a few have lower crime rates than many neighborhoods.

Manteca first city in Northern San Joaquin Valley to cap growth
Manteca was the first Northern San Joaquin Valley city to put in place a growth cap.

That was back in 1987 when the city was one of the fastest growing in California and saw a whopping 1,400 homes built in one year.

Growth was overwhelming the city and fees hadn’t ben changed to handle it. As a result, the city was teetering on bankruptcy unable to open a fire station, and forced to buy used CHP cars with 92,000 miles on them when they were put in service on Manteca streets. The city’s reserves dropped to below $2,000.

The growth management policy – which is based on sewer connection allocations and not building permits issued in an actual year – is widely credited with helping Manteca keep up with growth.

Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford said it also helped the city to weather the current economic crisis in better shape, so far, than many neighboring jurisdictions.

Besides keeping a lid on growth to the point that it could be handled, the artificial limitation on sewer connections prompted developers to propose bonus bucks in exchange for securing multiple year sewer commitments for projects.

Those bonus bucks have paid for a wide variety of amenities Manteca would not have today ranging from soccer field lights at Woodward Park to the skate park. The bonus bucks – to the tune of $6 million – balanced the budget this year and gave the city time to find ways to start cutting back services and recovering costs to cushion against the projected $11.3 million deficit expected to develop in the fiscal year starting July 1.