The most pressing quality of life issue in the upcoming Manteca municipal election is homelessness.
However, it’s not those that are homeless right now but those slowly being pushed to the abyss by the fact Manteca with each passing year is being pulled into a tighter economic orbit around San Jose, the East Bay, and San Francisco.
This is not news. What is, however, are the signs that the apple cart is about to be tipped over. It is kind of like the homeless. They were been around Manteca and most Northern California cities for decades. But it wasn’t until the last few years that most people paid attention because now they seem to be everywhere.
The homeless are the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
Take away the hardcore homeless — those who had serious substance abuse issues before they hit the streets, have mental health issues that aren’t considered dangerous enough under the law and court rulings to force mandatory 72 hour holds, or those that chose a nomadic lifestyle — and you are left with those that have been tripped up by economic forces.
A good number of those who end up in the HOPE Family Shelters have jobs. The biggest problem is securing housing they can afford. Sometimes it takes a pause where they can save money for two or so months while staying in the shelter as they learn money management skills and such while getting help connecting to landlords that work with HOPE Family Shelters to rent housing.
And remember that being homeless isn’t just the classic definition of living on the streets or in cars. It includes prolonged motel stays, sleeping on coaches or in garages of friends and other temporary housing arrangements.
If you’ve lived in Manteca awhile no one has to tell you what direction rents and housing prices have been going.
The two-bedroom and one bathroom Manteca apartment I moved out of 10 years ago when I bought my house was costing me $745 a month at Laurel Glenn on Button Avenue. Today it’s renting for $1,570. I paid $180,000 for the 990-square-foot, two bedrooms and one bathroom home in 2010. Last year when I had it appraised so I could take my loan down to 15 years it was valued at $245,000.
It’s safe to say wages for jobs based in and around Manteca aren’t keeping pace with housing inflation
Then there is U.S. Census data that shows a net loss of 24,000 people over a 12-month period ending July 1, 2017 who moved out of the core Bay Area counties primarily to the outer ring. The outer ring are areas tied to the Bay Area via umbilical cords such as Interstate 80 into Fairfield and the Sacramento Valley, I-580 over the Altamont Pass into the Northern San Joaquin Valley, and Highway 101 south of San Jose.
That number is astonishing for several reasons. First, the Bay Area economy is still the most robust region the nation for job growth. Second, just two years ago there was a net migration into the core counties of 15,000 people.
What has happened is the saturation point is being reached with developable land. Three of the core Bay Area economies now have median resale prices of homes in excess of $1 million.
It is effectively accelerating the squeeze on lower paid workers including those households with decent income pushing six figures.
The answer for them is to go east.
Everybody needs affordable housing which, by definition, is housing you can afford whether it is renting or buying. All of the housing being built in Manteca today — as well as apartments being built — is affordable as people are qualifying to buy or rent them.
In the case of home buyers if trends noted by several builders are universal, almost 1 out of every 5 homes sold in Manteca is either being bought by multi-generational households, two households that are unrelated, of two singles that may or not be in a relationship. More than a few are buying with the intent from Day 1 to rent a room out to ease the pain of mortgage payments.
So what can the city do? They can’t cut fees as they cover growth’s fair share of services and municipal amenities. There’s not really wiggle room on land costs or construction expenses. City leaders need to get creative. You can shrink footprints and increase density per acre. That would help somewhat but it will do little to address the needs of local workers.
It is why the council needs to look at ways to aggressively encourage homeowners to build secondary residential units on their property. They also need to consider embracing the option advanced by state to allow garage conversions.
Such strategies make lower priced affordable housing options available with a minimum impact on services. It also provides owners of existing homes a revenue stream that may prove crucial in their ability to continue to afford to live in Manteca as well as provide money needed to keep their homes in good shape and avoid backsliding that can have a snowball effect on older neighborhoods.
Garage conversions done right can blend in fairly seamlessly just like new homes that have built-in “in-law” quarters with a separate entrance under the same roof.
Its solutions like that elected leaders need to insist Manteca make available in order that the most vulnerable working people are not pushed out of the city as it grows.