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Manteca grade for affordable housing: D-
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Classes start Thursday.

Some 1,200 students are entering their senior year at East Union, Manteca, and Sierra high schools.

By this time next year some will be pursuing a post-secondary education. Some will join the military. Others will enter the job market.

They are the reasons why the biggest issue that matters in the Nov. 8 election is affordable housing. As job creation picks up in the Northern San Joaquin Valley the chances of Manteca Unified graduates being able to secure housing on their own — or even with friends — is becoming less and less likely with each passing day.

Average rents for a one bedroom apartment in the last four at-market complexes built in Manteca is now $1,310 a month. That’s up 61 percent since 2008 when that average was $820 a month. They have gone up 8.75 percent in the past six months from an average of $1,205 in January. That’s a jump pf 50 cents a day

It is painfully obvious to everyone — except perhaps city staff and elected leaders — that there is a serious housing crisis in Manteca that will force high school graduates to flee the community to live in places such as Stockton, Modesto, and Oakdale even if they secure decent paying jobs nearby. 

Average rents for one bedroom apartments are nearly $500 less per month in Modesto and Stockton than they are in Manteca.

It doesn’t take spending $150,000 on a consultant to identify the reason why.

The University of the Pacific Business Forecasting Center points out Manteca in 2010 had only 19.2 percent of its housing stock in multiple family units. Since then more than 2,200 single family homes have been built in Manteca and only 161 multiple family units of which most were the 153 units at Juniper Apartments on Atherton Drive.

Juniper Apartments is subsidized workforce housing where a percentage of income based on the average household salary of the community is used to determine the rent. They have a waiting list twice as long as the number of units that are all occupied. The percentage of multiple family units in Manteca has now dipped below 19 percent.

Stockton, meanwhile, has 33.7 percent of its housing stock in multi-family units. A bigger supply means lower rents.

Six months ago after a survey of rents appeared in the Bulletin, Councilman Richard Silverman asked staff whether Manteca was addressing its affordable housing needs.

The answer from staff is a tell-tale sign there is a disconnect at 1001 W. Center Street where many of the key staff that are paid above the median household income for Manteca opt to commute from communities where the cost of living is significantly lower.

Staff’s reply was that Manteca was meeting the state mandate for affordable housing because they had enough land on zoning maps colored in the right shade. They added that the loss of redevelopment agency funding took away the city’s ability to play a direct role in providing subsidized low-income housing.

The council nodded their collective heads and moved on.

The city — and council — are not powerless. Nor do they need rent control or other such strategies that typically make matters worse. What they need is to pursue developing incentives to actually get more affordable housing built.

A city that can wheel and deal to secure Big League Dreams, Bass Pro, Costco as well as being on the verge of landing a 500-room resort hotel and indoor waterpark certainly can find ways to get more rental housing built.

The problem is serious. Someone making $20 an hour with a full-time job would have to pay 38.3 percent of their pre-tax income of $41,600 to rent a one bedroom apartment in Manteca if they can find one to rent. Assuming a 15 percent tax bracket that one bedroom apartment will swallow up just over 45 percent of a fulltime job paying $20 an hour. 

The reason staff isn’t looking at ways of encouraging affordable housing for local residents which means multi-unit rentals as opposed to affordable housing for those fleeing the Bay Area which means for-purchase single family homes is quite simple. The council hasn’t made it a priority.

There is no ongoing discussion. All Manteca does is the absolute minimum which means paying consultants to put together affordable housing policies to appease Sacramento bureaucrats. Those policies sound good. One, though, can’t take shelter in good intentions.

As for the market taking care of housing needs, it is indeed doing that but they are for the housing needs of Bay Area workers and not those that labor on this side of the Altamont Pass.

Manteca is effective as the affordable housing solution for San Jose, Pleasanton, Livermore, Fremont, and Brentwood. It is failing miserably when it comes to affordable housing for those who work here.

The big debate these days seems to be over the homeless.

While that is legitimate and needs to be addressed the more pressing need is preventing working people from becoming homeless.

That means finding ways to encourage the building of a strong variety of housing options that aren’t limited to housing that falls into the McMansion, McMansion Lite, and Mini McMansion categories.

If not the dream of a high school graduate from Manteca, Sierra or East Union high schools next May being able to work and live in Manteca is a bigger fantasy than expecting Gov. Brown to announce today that he’s pulling the plug on high speed rail, dropping the Twin Tunnels, and endorsing Donald Trump for president.

City staff and their apologists may think they are doing “A” level work when it comes to encouraging affordable housing in Manteca but in reality saying they are doing “D-“ work is being overly generous.