A boost for Ventura housing?

August 6, 2009

It’s debatable whether officials, who voted this week to approve one of the largest housing developments in Ventura history, are really upping the ante on housing availability and affordability in the city, considering the current market.

The split, 4-3 vote from the city council OK’d the “Parklands” development, a proposed east end home/apartment complex of a whopping 500 units.

One of the big discussions at the council’s meeting was the need for more affordable housing in the city, and just how affordable they’d be. Talk hovered around a one-fifth fraction as the target number of affordable units.

It all seems like a revelatory thing for Ventura, considering criticisms that the city is quick on planning and visioning, yet slow on action. Very little housing is constructed here compared to the likes of an Oxnard, where an abundance of lower-income residents has prompted officials there to fast seek affordable housing (in some cases, charging into preserved farmland for it, too, but that’s another story).

According to reports, if Ventura doesn’t come up and fulfill some kind of affordable housing quota, they could be vulnerable for lawsuits from housing advocates.

Several online comments from readers of those online reports, however, looked down at the prospect, unfairly equating all affordable housing to mean an increase in crime, and a decrease in neighborhood safety.

“Where you find ‘affordable housing’, you’ll find riff-raff,” said one poster.

What they don’t understand in their generalizations is that affordable housing, in the grand scheme of things, is not that affordable at all for the lower income resident. It’s something that not even some of the financially better-off people can even afford. In a desirable place like Southern California, that’s the way it is.

I guess one of the big questions is: affordable or not, will the homes sell? According to a business report in our local daily paper, in Ventura County, 281,000 new homes were up for sale at the end of June — a 4-percent decrease from the month prior. At current rates, there’s almost a 9-month housing supply, and builders are reluctant to construct any new homes until units start being bought and the supply decreases to 6 months’ worth.

By the time the Parklands 500 is added to the mix, will the housing market will be in better shape? And we need to let the public to better understand a. that affordable housing won’t worsen a neighborhood, and b. that Ventura will fall behind if they don’t provide more housing.

If that happens, I predict in a few years a city like Oxnard could become the new county seat.

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