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Manteca does not need update of housing element
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

Last week’s article regarding the Manteca City Council-initiated housing element update was a bit unnerving. It highlights once again the number of studies and work groups that have sprouted at city hall over the past year or so.

The rapid succession of their generation by the city council in response to community matters is amazing, given that for the past fifteen years most of these issues had been ignored. This phenomenon leads me to ask, is this flurry of actions a game of catch up after years of inaction, or is it an attempt to patronize the masses while the Council figures out how they got into the mess, or does it buy the Council more time?

The Housing Element is a state-required document that identifies the housing deficiencies of a community, and identifies achievable goals and implementation program to meet the housing requirements of all residents of a community, regardless of income. Manteca’s current housing element was adopted in 2003 as part of the General Plan update process, after twenty years of being pronounced by the California Department of Housing as the prime example of noncompliance. Staff tried for decades to convince the city leaders that it was important to prepare and to have a certified housing element. However, Administration and the Councils felt that identifying and providing housing opportunities for all income levels would bring an unsavory element to our community and thus undermine the family city. With this in mind, the councils rebuffed every attempt by the state to encourage adoption of a proper housing element. In 2001, I was finally able to convince the city council that having a housing element would be advantageous and certainly forestall potential litigation.

This latest study is occurring during a time when municipal funds are in deficit and the council is considering whether to cut staff, wages, benefits, city programs, etc. It seems a bit incongruent to have important deficit issues to resolve while spending our limited funds on a study that is already on the shelf. We do not need an update of the current housing element. What needs to occur is for the City Council to implement the findings of the current certified housing element. In light of the development pattern that has occurred in the past 10 years, the only difference between the 2003 housing element and the update currently underway will be an increase in upper income level housing units; because there has been no notable attempt towards increasing living units for lower income levels, such as apartments, duplexes, etc. It is simple math; the deficit of lower income level housing units has increased. It really makes no sense to spend our limited funds on yet another study that will more likely be shelved as well, because the results will be just as unsavory as before or there is no political will to implement its findings. As such, if the Council is really interested, why not simply implement the findings of the 2003 housing element and save our limited funds for resolving the deficit.

While other cities have openly complied with the provisions of housing element law, and implemented programs that provide housing opportunities to all its residents, Manteca’s city leaders continue to flounder in the insecurity of mounting studies. Rather than taking the helm of the community, and dealing directly and decisively with the lack of community amenities and the financial deficit and quality of life issues confronting the city, the council continues to move from one study to the next, and allowing administration to promote the way.  

Benjamin Cantu
April 8, 2009