Affordable housing summit hosted in Stockton

Developers, state policy representatives and housing advocates from up and down the Central Valley convened in Stockton last Thursday at the annual San Joaquin Valley Affordable Housing Summit to discuss one of the biggest issues to face the region in the coming years: affordable housing.

Long a California laggard in terms of economic growth, the valley’s population is set to boom in the coming decades faster than any other region in the state. The University of the Pacific Business Forecasting Center predicts that San Joaquin County is set to pass the 1 million mark by 2035 — a surge of 300,000 people in the next 21 years. According to the Summit’s speakers, this surge will certainly stress a region that already has issues providing housing that residents can reasonably afford.

Alive and kicking: Stockton is not a "dying city" And according to William Jahmal Miller, deputy director of the state’s Office of Health Equity, a median-priced home now costs two in three California residents more than one-third of their income, which is the federal threshold for housing affordability. That means many residents find themselves in suboptimal housing, especially in San Joaquin and other counties in the valley where wages are lower and unemployment rates higher than in the rest of the state.

The situation gets worse for those who rely on welfare or disability. An individual receiving Social Security for a permanent disability, for example, can expect $877 a month in benefits — meaning housing costs and utilities must be less than $300 a month to be truly affordable. It’s even lower for a single-parent family relying on welfare. Finding that kind of rate for habitable housing on the open market is nearly impossible, pointing to the problems facing those at the bottom of the Central Valley’s income gradient.

But it’s not just cost that makes housing in the valley problematic and a critical issue going forward, according to those at the summit. The region also suffers from more air pollution than most of California, creating health problems. Indicators of economic opportunity — from educational attainment to employment rates — trend lower for this region than the rest of the state. There is a lack of adequate public transportation connecting cities organized by suburban templates and other infrastructure to assist those who are stretched to the limit.

“It’s not just about affordability,” said Housing California executive director Shamus Roller. “It’s about stability, health and opportunity.”

These problems were widely acknowledged by those who spoke at the Thursday conference. So were many roadblocks to alleviating them.

Developers that build houses or apartments to sell at below market rate cannot typically make the projects pencil out financially without a financial boost. Tom Collishaw, CEO of nonprofit housing- and community development-oriented Self-Help Enterprises, said that a rebounding economy means more projects will be viable. But he and others added that communities including Stockton have lost valuable tools to encourage affordable housing, notably redevelopment agencies, which were abolished by Governor Brown during the Great Recession.

Compounding the problem is that financial assistance available for affordable housing rarely makes its way to Stockton, Fresno or any other Central Valley city. In the competition for state and federal money, Stockton doesn’t qualify as “rural,” and therefore must compete against San Francisco, Los Angeles and other large urban centers for limited funding. Often, that leaves Central Valley cities — and their homeless, near-homeless, and under-housed individuals — on the outside looking in.

Despite the challenges, those at the summit suggested courses of action that could make a difference going forward. They suggested sustained advocacy from leaders both elected and appointed is needed for Central Valley cities like Stockton to make themselves visible and viable targets for money and support. Speakers also encouraged agencies and governments that deal with housing-related issues to see everything as an interconnected web, rather than sticking issues of housing affordability into distinct silos such as “education” and “housing cost.”

The takeaway message is that it will take a concerted, continued effort among many people to ensure the valley’s housing stock meets anticipated needs and that planners must consider those at the lowest end of the income totem pole when building for the future.

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Categories: Community Commentary

Author:Jon Mendelson

Jon was born and raised in Stockton. He returned to the city following four years of college at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles. He is an award-winning columnist and the former editor of the Tracy Press newspaper in Tracy. He currently is associate director of Central Valley Low Income Housing Crop., which assists homeless families and individuals. He lives in Stockton's Miracle Mile district.

4 Comments on “Affordable housing summit hosted in Stockton”

  1. dan cort
    November 20, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    Nice article Jon. Spot on building workforce/and affordable housing in our communtiy.

  2. walt
    November 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    I wonder if UOP forecasts that Stockton residents will still be driving autos to jobs in the Bay Area in 2035.

  3. Jon Seisa
    November 20, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    The primary issue is one of state housing policy deficiencies, misdirected priorities and neglect, and a state and federal divestment back in 2012 under Governor Brown, which evaporated over $1.5 billion in annual subsidies for California earmarked for affordable housing. Consequently, mid and low-income wage earners are virtually severed by the government from attaining homeownership or a rental unit, though vouchers for temporary housing has been sustained.

    The situation is also slapped with the compounded affect of plummeting wages and increased housing costs, while the foreclosure crisis had put pressure on rental prices which have risen over 20% as mean-income rates declined by 8%; thus, hampering housing affordability. Meanwhile, the disenfranchised poor in California skyrocketed to 8.9 million people, or virtually a quarter of Californians (1 in 4), making the state the poverty capital of the United States by far, eclipsing Mississippi and Louisiana, and a higher percent of this poverty per capita is located in the Central Valley.

    This highly informative report from the California Housing Partnership Corporation, published in February, 2014, goes into more details, and provides some extremely tangible strategic action that the local municipal, county and state leaders need to take, all the way up to the governor…

    HOW CALIFORNIA’S HOUSING MARKET IS FAILING
    TO MEET THE NEEDS OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES: http://www.chpc.net/dnld/CHPCHousingNeedReport020814FINAL.pdf

    If averaged, this could mean that of the 1 million residents projected to reside in San Joaquin County by 2035, there will be nearly 250,000 poor and under-educated, about 83% of Stockton’s current population. In 2035, Stockton’s population is projected to increase over ½ a million (approximately 578,562), and the averaged 23.8% poor and under-educated calculates to 137,698 Stocktonians, equal to a doubling of Lodi’s population, or equal to two cities like current Lodi, but immersed in complete poverty.

    U.S.POVERTY HIGHER, CALIFORNIA HIGHEST, WHEN HOUSING COSTS ADDED: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/06/nation/la-na-nn-poverty-rate-higher-20131106

    Aside from this, another critical aspect is that affordable housing reinforces and enhances educational attainments and improvements, creating healthy communities, and without affordable housing a disproportionate under-educated populace emerges dependent on tax-subsidized aid for survival, overtaxing the system with all its amenities from healthcare to transportation, while high school dropout rates increase and the opportunity for tertiary level higher education diminishes, while criminal activity increases due to idleness. In turn, this may produce a lackluster and deficient unskilled workforce not equipped for high caliber skill sets and employment in the emerging and mushrooming high-tech sector, the wave of the future that may leave many behind in the California dust.

    PUBLICATIONS FROM THE NATIONAL HOUSING CONFERENCE ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND EDUCATION: http://www.nhc.org/publications/Housing-and-Education.html

    THE IMPACTS OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING ON EDUCATION: A RESEARCH SUMMARY: http://www.nhc.org/media/files/Insights_HousingAndEducationBrief.pdf

    HOW HOUSING MATTERS – THE MACARTHUR FOUNDATION: http://www.macfound.org/programs/how-housing-matters/

  4. Jon Seisa
    November 21, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Here are the current government resources for affordable housing funding:

    Community Development Block Grant Program – CDBG: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/communitydevelopment/programs

    HOME Investment Partnerships Program: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/affordablehousing/programs/home/

    RESOURCES LOS ANGELES IS TAPPING (MAY SERVE AS AN EXAMPLE): http://lahd.lacity.org/lahdinternet/portals/0/policy/curriculum/gettingfacts/building/financing.html

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