2017-02-16 / Editorials
Pack up the kids and move in with Mom and Dad
Making housing affordable for today’s young buyers seems like the can that just keeps getting kicked down the road. It’s always somebody else’s problem.
The latest statistics from Cal Lutheran’s Center for Economic Research and Forecasting show that only 26 percent of the population, one in four people, can afford to buy a median-priced home in Ventura County (see today’s Page 1 story).
Recession or no recession, housing affordability remains the biggest economic challenge facing residents in the region. According to the experts at the Feb. 10 CERF forecast breakfast hosted by CLU and the Thousand Oaks Rotary Club, housing prices in the area are almost 100 percent of where they were in 2008 when the crash hit. Yet wages for many jobs have remained stagnant, making the affordability index even worse.
Still, housing prices continue to rise, driven by high building costs and low supply. With much of eastern Ventura and western Los Angeles counties declared off limits for development by Save Open-space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) and other protections, the availability of new housing stock is lagging. In the Conejo Valley, where approximately one in three acres is protected open space, the issue is compounded.
Rents are going through the roof, too. A two-bedroom apartment for less than $2,000 is a thing of the past. Unlike the buyer who has to meet strict loan qualifications, a renter can take possession of an apartment with 50 percent or more of their income going to the landlord, and that’s dangerous.
The hourly wage needed to afford today’s average two-bedroom apartment is around $30, studies show. How many young husbands and wives earn that?
It’s a moot point if people can’t find jobs to begin with. At last week’s economic forecast, Matthew Fienup, CERF’s new executive director, said Ventura County is the only county in Southern California that has not returned to pre-recession job levels.
“There were fewer people with jobs living in Ventura County last year than there were the year before. That is unprecedented in Ventura County for a non-recessionary economy,” Fienup said.
Attitudes about density and urban expansion need to change if the housing situation is to improve, the economist said.
We are seeing more of this so-called infill development—new homes and buildings added to previously approved lots—being OK’d by cities from Calabasas to Camarillo. But even with this higher supply, area housing prices will never be truly affordable. It would take some kind of wage and price controls, and that will never happen.
Face it, the Conejo Valley is the new Silicon Valley, where housing prices have reached ridiculously, but not unsustainably, high levels.