Manteca needs affordable housing.
Manteca Unified needs to prepare students for their future including jobs in the blue collar sector.
The City of Manteca has acreage along Airport Way north of Yosemite Avenue that they purchased with redevelopment agency funds that they need to find a partner to develop.
Why not address all three needs in one fell swoop?
The city and school district along with the San Joaquin Office of Education and an organization such as Habitat for Humanity could combine forces to provide affordable housing and teach high school students skills that can lead to coveted head of household jobs.
There is little doubt the construction sector will provide gainful employment in the Northern San Joaquin Valley in the coming years. Piquing student interest and giving them basic skills to seek entry level employment in construction or putting them on the path to trade schools for related fields makes sense.
Manteca United already offers vocational education courses of study in food service, welding field, and public safety. Construction trades are an obvious addition that fits well into the economic landscape awaiting students when they graduate.
This is not a new concept. Western Placer Unified School District through the Placer County Office of Education Regional Occupation Program (ROP) back in the 1980s offered a construction program where students built actual houses at Lincoln High in Lincoln. They were built at the school site and then sold and moved to a location where a foundation was put in place. Sierra Community College in Rocklin had a similar program. While they built some buildings on campus and moved them to their ultimate locations, they also built houses on location. They were involved hands on in the entire process from the drawing of the working plans, ordering materials to driving the final nail. They had professions from various fields serving as teachers.
The Sierra College program is how my sister Mary and her husband Chris built their two-story home over 30 years ago on acreage in the foothills east of Lincoln.
They paid for all of the materials. And while it took close to a year for the students to complete working with a contractor-instructor, it allowed them to not just get more home than they would have been able to afford at the time but it is still as solid as ever today. Of the dozens of students that worked on the home a number ended up going into the construction trades.
Home construction classes aren’t unusual in other states. In Wyoming, students from three high schools in Cheyenne worked with Habitat for Humanity to help four families build their own homes. The students find out whether construction is for them, pick up employable skills, and families that would otherwise not been able to buy a house will have homes to call their own.
Lincoln, back in the 1970s given it was classified at the time as a rural community with under 10,000 residents had a number of families that took advantage of the United States Department of Agricultural program that helps families that meet certain income requirements to build their own homes that they then pay off over a 30-year period.
Their down payment was sweat equity. Compared to other affordable single family housing built at the time in Lincoln through Housing and Urban Development, they were rock solid given people who build their own homes as they learn don’t cut corners.
The land on Airport Way could be used as the starter project for a similar effort in Manteca.
Partnering with an organization like Habitat for Humanity and working with the county office would bring in the expertise to deal with financing and securing families for such endeavors as well as provide a regional draw for high school students.
Once a program is up and running and development on the Airport Way land owned by the city starts, Manteca could work with owners of vacant property around the city to obtain other sites to build homes.
The city could even explore the possibility of tackling an affordable housing project essentially aimed at young people who, after graduating from local high schools, have a desire to work and live in Manteca to secure rental housing. A one-story complex of studio or IKEA style apartments could potentially be built somewhere in Manteca.
The cost savings is obviously in not having to pay for the labor. At the same time students develop marketable skills.
Affordable housing won’t be resolved through osmosis. Nor can we exposure teens to potential careers by just talking about them.
Bringing the two problems or challenges together can create opportunities. And while it won’t address all of our pressing affordable housing needs or provide the right path to make a living for every student that would be involved, it definitely moves both needs beyond just the talking stage.