|Ventura County Civic Alliance
Livable Communities Newsletter
|2015 1st Quarter, Number 33 |
Welcome to Our Winter 2015 Livable Communities Newsletter!
This quarter's newsletter focuses on the Equity "E" of our Ventura County Civic Alliance "3E" perspective (Economy, Environment, and Social Equity).
In the first article, our Alliance's very own Bob Warnagieris sets the stage for the type of issues we are considering when we look at equity in housing. There are both government laws / programs and market place forces at play in the housing market that effect everyone from Millennials to Baby Boomers.
In our second article, guest writer Tony Biasotti previews some of the analysis that will be presented in the new 2015 State of the Region report to be distributed in April. This data shows Ventura County's two very different types of communities that are separated into East to West sections, with Camarillo being part of East County when the subjects relate to social equity. His presentation of the Misery Index is very thought-provoking.
Our third article educates us about an important agency that has tremendous impact on how our communities develop. Ron Bottorff reviews the developmental history of Local Agency Formation Commissions or LAFCos and goes through the Ventura County LAFCo's direct role in the East Area 1 specific plan development proposed by the City of Santa Paula. We will see the power of the local voters in the development of community character in our County.
Our final article by guest contributor Professor Kenya Covington addresses the history and impact of several government programs that were focused on equity issues during the foreclosure crisis of 2008 through 2012. Overwhelmingly, higher earners were aided by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) discussed, while low income households rarely benefitted from homeowner assistance. Despite excellent intentions and many excellent impacts, results were not uniform. Social equity in housing is a complex subject!
As always, we ask for your feedback on what we are presenting. We would like to incorporate this feedback into further coverage of these topics.
THE MANY FRONTS OF SOCIAL EQUITY IN HOUSING
by Bob Warnagieris
In the course of selecting housing as a theme for the Livable Communities Newsletter, the concept of social equity in housing was discussed. This is standard procedure since the guiding principles of the Ventura County Civic Alliance call for a achieving a stable economy, preserving the environment and also seeking social equity for all citizens. However, social equity in housing has many faces and presents an enigma on how public bodies should proceed.
Yes, there are State and Federal laws (Fair Housing Act of 1966) that provide for fair housing practices and assurance that there will be no discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, creed, color or gender. That does not mean, however, that we won't see loan redlining in some areas or reluctance to invest in low income or ethnic areas. Redlining smacks of discrimination and rightly should be prohibited. Investment decisions are another matter; if the return is insufficient, it will take incentives to achieve affordable housing for the middle class or development guidelines requiring a certain percentage of homes to be within the reach of blue collar and service workers. Attempts to do the latter so far have fallen short of meeting the need.
State and federal redevelopment funds have been used successfully in the past to provide a broader range of housing in stressed communities as well as upgrade neighborhoods and commercial districts. However, in recent years these programs have been curtailed or terminated. Redevelopment in California got the budget ax in 2011. Although affordable housing was a prime objective, many municipalities awarded projects to private developers who built commercial complexes of dubious public value. There are alternative funding plans in the works but nothing of the scale previously provided.
The ongoing problem of affordability has great disadvantages for the community. In Thousand Oaks, Amgen, one of the nation's premier biotech firms and the employer of thousands, has made it known that the cost of housing in the area limits their ability to recruit the talented younger worker needed for high technology jobs. They could relocate to another state for this reason. School districts, fire departments, cities, department stores, etc. are unable to attract outside talent or relocate people from other areas because the newcomers can't afford the housing. While this situation may be without overt discrimination, it does present a question of equity and balance in housing. The middle class worker often has to travel greater distance to his or her worksite or live in crowded or sub-standard housing. Both of those factors distract from what we think of as a "livable community."
Livable Communities State of the Region Report Preview
by Tony Biasotti
As we prepare the 2015 version of the Ventura County Civic Alliance's State of the Region report, one of the overarching themes is unchanged from previous editions: the bifurcation of Ventura County, usually into its eastern and western halves. Dozens of the statistical measures in the report illustrate that the way people live in, for example, the Conejo Valley is dramatically different from the way they live in Ventura or Oxnard. This applies to schools, crime, housing and many other elements of our report.
The cities and towns in East Ventura County - as well as Camarillo, in West County - are characterized by suburban, automobile-dependent development patterns; good schools; low crime; extremely high home prices; high rates of home ownership; limited inventory of rental housing; and a lack of jobs suitable for people who live in those areas.
On the western side of the Conejo Grade, the defining characteristics of most cities are a more urban, pedestrian- and transit-friendly development pattern; lower home prices; lower rates of home ownership; more available rental housing; economic inequality; wide variance in the quality of schools; higher crime; and more job opportunities in industries that aren't present in suburban neighborhoods.
However, everywhere, there are shortages of both jobs and housing, and not many neighborhoods that allow residents to live near where they work. The results are high prices to rent or buy a home, especially relative to the region's incomes, and long commutes to jobs in Santa Barbara or Los Angeles County.
Click Here to see the chart of radically reduced housing inventory and what the Misery Index tells you about your part of the County
LAFCo's Role in Agricultural Preservation
by Ron Bottorff
After World War II, California experienced dramatic growth in population and economic development. With this boom came a demand for housing, jobs, and public services. To accommodate this demand, the state approved the formation of many new local government agencies, often with little forethought as to the ultimate governance structures in a given region. The lack of coordination and adequate planning led to often overlapping, inefficient jurisdictional and service boundaries, and the premature conversion/loss of California's agricultural and open-space lands.
Recognizing this problem, in 1959, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr. appointed the Commission on Metropolitan Area Problems. The Commission's charge was to study and make recommendations on the "misuse of land resources" and the growing complexity of local governmental jurisdictions. The Commission's recommendations on local governmental reorganization were introduced in the Legislature in 1963, resulting in the creation of Local Agency Formation Commissions, or "LAFCos".
Today, there is a LAFCo in each of California's 58 counties, each operating independently of the state and county. Though the make-up of LAFCos varies somewhat throughout the state, approximately half of the LAFCos, including the Ventura LAFCo, are comprised of two county supervisors, two city councilmembers, two special district board members, and a member selected from the general public. The purposes of LAFCo, as outlined in state law, are to 1) discourage urban sprawl, 2) preserve open-space and prime agricultural lands, 3) ensure the efficient provision of urban services, and 4) encourage the orderly formation and development of local agencies based on local conditions and circumstances. To achieve these purposes, LAFCos exercise both regulatory and planning functions.
Read more about how our LAFCo controls how we can and can't develop. Click Here!!
After the Foreclosure Crisis, Neighborhood Stabilization in Los Angeles
by Kenya Covington, Ph.D.
Concerns about deleterious effects of concentrated foreclosure amplified the need for a direct response to the unprecedented loss of property and household wealth (Immergluck 2009). The negative spillover effects of foreclosure on neighborhoods were being felt in the Los Angeles region. Linked to the unprecedented rate of foreclosure, municipalities were at risk, unable to raise adequate tax revenues, leading communities such as Stockton and Modesto, CA to the brink of bankruptcy. Hence, local neighborhoods were eager for solutions to address major erosion of property value and unusually high mortgage default risk.
Nationally, the federal government responded by passing legislation to provide local governments with resources to encourage community redevelopment by acquiring foreclosed, abandoned properties, and rehabilitation of those properties. The program also encouraged the securitization of down payment assistance and affordable loans for low and moderate-income households. Congress authorized three rounds of funding. Neighborhood Stabilization Program 1 (NSP1) was legislated by passage of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, 2008.
The execution of NSP1 in California suggests that stabilization efforts were important. Accumulatively, NSP1 grantees in California completed 3,969 units; 30% was acquisition, 3% clearance and demo, 22% homeownership, and 45% rehabilitation and new construction. The acquisition, rehabilitation and resale of foreclosed or vacant parcels has had some positive impact on the quality of affordable housing stock and the economic stability of local tax revenues as many more occupied units are contributing to the tax base, than there would otherwise be.
In its execution however, NSP 1 as an affordable housing program or a program to aid low income households in some meaningful way fell short. In the Los Angeles region Area Median Income (AMI) is approximately $65,700. A goal of the NSP program was to assist low income areas. HUD defined low income as less than 50% of AMI (LH25), hence this group includes households earning $0-$32,193. The other group served is the low, moderate and middle income household earning $33,507 -$78,840 (LMMI). Overwhelmingly higher earners were aided by NSP activities that will have longer lasting positive economic effects. As figure 1 indicates, low income households rarely benefitted from homeownership assistance.
Read more to better understand what the government has been doing and how this has been helping low income households.
Thanks to the Following Supporters of the 2015 Ventura County Civic Alliance State of the Region Report
Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) Fairburn Fund
Ventura County Community College District
Workforce Investment Board of Ventura County
California Lutheran University School of Management
California State University Channel Islands
County Commerce Bank
County of Ventura / Health Services Agency
Gene Haas Foundation
Procter & Gamble Paper Products Co.
Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs Association (VCDSA)
Port of Hueneme
Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors
Dr. Kay Faulconer-Boger
Friends of the Santa Clara River
Maron Computer Services
Montecito Bank & Trust
Stacy & Kerry Roscoe
Sespe Consulting Inc.
United Way of Ventura County
Brokaw Ranch Company
Cabrillo Economic Development Corp
Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc.
Sherie & Joe Gibson
Ventura College Foundation
Ventura County Office of Education
Ventura County Transportation Commission
Special thanks go to Kerry Roscoe for detailed editing, photo, and format work required to bring these articles to you in the form that you see them!