There are more than 12,000 homes on the drawing boards that various developers would like to build in Manteca during the coming years that reflect the Leave it to Beaver American Dream on steroids crossed with a McMansion version of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
The lots range from 6,000 to 15,000 square feet. Envisioned homes are more bowling alleys than cottages.
It’s as if the year 1999 never ended.
Rare are the one-income households. People don’t spend their time puttering on the weekend in their yards. Many buy homes that end up being big on space and short on furnishings. Rare are those who actually park their cars in their garages. Even rarer are those who travel less to work in a week than their grandparents drove in a year.
Yet Manteca’s development pattern — current and projected years down the road — caters to a world that doesn’t exist.
We are told that isn’t the case. The city assures us developers are only building to the market. Builders tell us they are only building what sells. But here is the truth: The homes being advanced are the ones that sell the quickest and turn the biggest profit. But isn’t that, you ask, selling to the market?
Yes and no. California has a chronic housing shortage. Contrary to misconceptions, the foreclosure crisis didn’t end it. All it did was give the appearance that there were too many homes when in reality there was not enough homes aimed at the right segment of the market that were built.
What happens is the chronic housing shortage exacerbated by regulatory control that make building subdivisions a drawn out and risky investment has created a market where builders chase the cream of the tract home buying public.
Here’s how that works. The California Housing and Community Development has been extensively chronicling the housing shortage since the 1960s. Based on job growth and other factors Santa Clara County has an annual shortage of 5,900 homes and Alameda County has an annual shortfall of 2,800 homes. On this side of the Altamont Pass San Joaquin County has an annual shortfall of 2,800 homes and Stanislaus County has a yearly shortfall of 2,200 homes.
Those figures are arrived at independently. In other words the shortfalls are based on activity within the county and doesn’t factor in those who are forced to look to that county because they can’t afford to buy a home in the county where they work.
That is why McMansions and such sell so well in Manteca and the rest of San Joaquin County. It’s not because of local demand. It is due to the need of home buyers squeezed out of local markets in Bay Area counties to look eastward in order to secure a home.
Manteca isn’t so much the affordable housing solution for Bay Area cities as it is the housing solution — period. McMansions and larger lots sell well because that is what isn’t being provided in the Bay Area where there are too many buyers that can qualify for higher loans chasing few too many houses.
It is why banks prefer bankrolling development in Manteca of homes with 1999 sensibilities in mind.
The truth is other homes can be built and still turn a profit for builders but the big profits come from catering to those squeezed out of the Bay Area housing market that aren’t struggling to make ends meet but are struggling to find a home to buy.
The 514-home Sundance neighborhood envisioned by FCB Homes is a slight departure from the madness that effectively focuses on one segment of the home buying market.
Smaller lots, smaller yards, and somewhat smaller homes by McMansion standards open up Sundance’s potential pool of buyers to more households with decent enough incomes to handle a mortgage. It also means more people who work in Manteca and the San Joaquin Valley where the wages aren’t Bay Area level can afford to buy a FCB Home.
The homes are also more sustainable using less water and power with less yard upkeep costs and such. They also devour less land.
At an average of 5,000 square feet per lot for the overall project, Sundance is almost 2,500 square feet on average per lot smaller than most other developments going in south of the 120 Bypass. That means the land needed for every 10 free standing homes other developers build would accommodate 50 percent more homes housing FCB’s approach.
At the same time the higher density relative to each mile of street, sewer, and water lines in turn reduce future upkeep and maintenance costs for the city.
Manteca’s elected leaders need to rethink the housing element plus wean themselves off the McMansion addiction that in the long run does a disservice to Manteca by encouraging housing that doesn’t come close to matching available jobs — present and future — in Manteca and the San Joaquin Valley in terms of affordably.
The city can shirk the hard work involved in reshaping Manteca’s housing by saying it is only reflecting the market. But in doing so they fail to mention the market they are reflecting is that of Santa Clara and Alameda counties and not of their own constituents.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.