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Same apartment rented for $920 less a month 12 years ago in Manteca . . .
Same apartment rented for $920 less a month 12 years ago in Manteca . . .

If I had not made the decision to buy a home in 2008, the odds of me being able to afford to live in Manteca much longer would be getting into the slim to none range by the time the city reaches 100,000 residents within the next six or so years.

I was renting a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment at Laurel Glenn on Button Avenue 12 years ago for $780 a month. The prospect of taking on a 30-year mortgage as a 52-year-old was a bit daunting as I was dealing with a $1,150 a month loan payment. But in looking back at the rent and home price trends over the previous 25 years, I figured within 10 years my rent would have risen to the level of my mortgage payment.

I was way off.

Even with two moves to shorten the terms of my loan — first to 20 years and then 15 years — that upped my monthly payment for the mortgage, taxes, and insurance to $1,417 a month today, I hit the breakeven point after just six years.

Today the same apartment I rented for $780 in 2008 is now renting for $1,700. And instead of signing a six-month lease you will have to commit to a year.

This is a snippet of how the reality of trying to house one’s self or your family in Manteca underscores the seriousness of the Dec. 15 Manteca City Council meeting.

Mayor Ben Cantu is making a pitch at that meeting to stop processing new tentative subdivision maps until the city figures a way to reset some of its growth strategies. At the top of the list for the general overall good of the community needs to be effective strategies that encourages — and enables — the private sector to build housing that can slowdown the inevitable increase in rent and purchase prices.

Basic economics means you have to find a way to get the supply to somewhere near the demand and do so in a manner that also involves higher density and smaller living spaces. You can’t accomplish much without those two concepts being at the top of the list.

And to be clear, this is a true crisis despite increasing rents and home prices being a part of living in Manteca since the 1980s.

That’s because the pandemic has reset how much of the Bay Area core employers view work and the need to physically be in an office space five days a week as opposed to a few days or none.

This is prompting a sharp shift from urban core areas where rents are high. Before the pandemic, commuting five days a week from lower cost of living communities such as Manteca didn’t pencil out fiscally as the commute costs in many cases would have wiped out the saving in housing costs. And even when there was a little wiggle room or even $200 a month in the positive, the physical drain and the time cost made it unappealing for many.

That has now changed.

The so-called “Outer Bay” — Manteca, Tracy, Mountain House, Patterson, Lathrop, Ripon, Modesto, and Stockton — are seeing rents soar while the Inner Bay is seeing rents fall. It mirrors what has happened in Southern California since January. Rents have fallen in Los Angeles 5.3 percent while they’ve increased 6.9 percent in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Compounding the problem in Manteca and Lathrop are new home sales that increased 50 percent during the same time period. That is putting Manteca on pace to build 900 to 1,000 new homes on an annual basis next year.

Developers will see that as a sign to start seeking entitlements for even more single family homes even though at the uptick in pace Manteca has an existing inventory of approved lots to keep builders going full throttle for six to seven years.

And the market these future yet-to-be-proposed lots will serve will be buyers escaping high rents in the Bay Area.

Although Cantu has hinted that a pause in processing new tentative maps may need to take two to three years that would be doing no one a favor.

The longer the city takes to get rules in place that make it easier for different housing types that will cost less comparatively speaking as the years unfold, the longer the squeeze keeps forcing those that labor in Manteca to live 20 plus miles away to secure housing they can afford.

Cantu personally already has some ideas of what would work. There are tried and true efforts other cities have done.

That is why the city should have a moratorium on processing new tentative maps that is no longer than six months to a year.

If the council majority on Dec. 15 believes there is indeed a housing crisis in Manteca that is getting worse and that other adjustments are needed to make sure growth is done right, they should direct staff to return no later than the Jan. 5, 2021 meeting with an emergency ordinance to put in place a tentative map moratorium with a set time limit to address growth-related concerns.

At the same meeting the council needs to hammer together a realistic work plan that has three components.

First and foremost housing strategies are needed that will increase the ability of people to attain housing whether it is to buy or rent. Off the cuff this may include things such as requiring upwards of half of all new tentative subdivision maps to have lots of 3,500 square feet or less, jettisoning requirements such as garages in favor of carports, allowing bungalows such as at River Islands that effectively place three separate housing units with privacy designed in on lots of 8,000 square feet, higher apartment density, and other such strategies.

It could even include an aggressive city program for garage conversions and granny flats to create full-blown additional living units that fit seamlessly into existing neighborhoods.

Those strategies will need to be identified, vetted, and put in place within a year before the moratorium expires.

At the same a nexus needs to be performed that would justify a reduction in fees involving strategies aimed at encouraging the building of more attainable housing.

The third area of concern entails existing growth fees. This should be handled in two ways and should have nothing to do with the moratorium as they apply to when building permits are issued. First all growth fees need to reflect a measurement of construction inflation that is almost always higher, and significantly so, than consumer inflation.

The city also needs to make sure fees are being charged for what growth needs and what the city wants in terms of amenities keeping in mind  existing residents will need to pay their fair share as well as for added amenities given growth can only legal be charged for what impacts or demands it creates.

Realistically, justification for a moratorium on tentative subdivision maps is most pure if it is to alter the dynamics of future housing in the pipeline.

By sticking to a maximum of a year and no more for such a moratorium that means strategies will be in place by early 2022 for future development. Given in the best of circumstances it takes two to three years at best to take raw land through the entitlement process to the point foundations can be poured, the earliest more attainable housing would be available would be early 2025.

And that, to be honest, that would require every piston in the process to be firing in synch.

There is indeed a crisis.

And unless the council taking over wants to go along for the ride as previous councils did for the most part when it comes for attainable housing for people who work in Manteca, they may want to seize on Cantu’s proposal.  If they do so, however, they must not let it drag on and spend no more than a year building a foundation for development that won’t leave out those treading water on the tidal wave of the Bay Area affordable housing solution that essentially disperses the workforce it needs among the commuter cities of the Northern San Joaquin Valley.


The opinions of this column are those of editor Dennis Wyatt and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Bulletin or of 209 Multimedia.