|Ventura County Civic Alliance
Livable Communities Newsletter
|2015 2nd Quarter, Number 34 |
CORRECTION: In the February issue of the Livable Communities Newsletter, the article on the Ventura Local Agency Formation Commission was authored by Kai Luoma, Executive Officer of Ventura LAFCo. Ron Bottorff, who was erroneously listed as the author, had requested the article and made suggestions as to its structure. We apologize to Mr. Luoma for this error and thank him once again for providing an outstanding article for our newsletter.
Welcome to Our Spring 2015 Livable Communities Newsletter!
This quarter's newsletter reviews key housing information excerpts from the 2015 State of the Region Report that is being released this week. The discussion of this data in the report presents a clear analysis of the current and future housing situation in Ventura County. Putting a face on how this data manifests in the everyday lives of our community members bring the picture into sharp focus, and makes the call for action more compelling.
In this edition, we are fortunate to have two such faces offering first-hand analysis and prospective. Susie DiMauro and Sean Bharrdwaj have graciously accepted an invitation from our Alliance Livable Communities Committee to relate their ongoing experiences searching for affordable housing in Ventura County. Once you read their stories, I know that you will agree with us that hearing from the real people behind the data puts this issue of housing in a powerful context! Please click through and read the full story that each has written.
The housing excerpts from the 2015 State of the Region Report will be presented first to set the stage for Susie's and Sean's stories.
Our final article covers excerpts from the new State of the Region report regarding water. While water has been more recently tied to problems procuring adequate housing, this topic really has a powerful message regarding sustainable communities all on its own, since it its availability and price impact all three of the 3 E's that provide the foundation of the Alliance's work. Over the next couple of quarters, we will have more on water and how it is key to sustainable communities.
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.
Key excerpts from the 2015 State of the Region Report:
----- Land Use and Housing -----
Ventura County residents pay a lot for apartments, and they also have a hard time finding vacant ones. Those two factors are related, of course, as high demand and a relatively low supply mean high prices.
The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Ventura County was $1,719 in July 2014. It has steadily marched upward over the past decade, with only a 6 percent decline between 2008 and 2009. Multifamily rents today are 27% higher than they were in 2004, growing by an average of 4 percent every year; the weighted average vacancy rate for rental housing was 2.5 percent in 2014. That's the lowest it has been for the past seven years. In 2006, the weighted vacancy rate was only 1.96 percent.
Ventura County is one of the least affordable parts of Southern California, which makes it one of the least affordable in the nation. In the first quarter of 2014, only 29 percent of households could afford the county's median-priced home. That was a precipitous decline from one year earlier, when the rate was 42 percent. It was also far lower than the national average rate of 59 percent, and slightly lower than the California rate of 33 percent. In Southern California, only Orange County, at 19 percent, was less affordable than Ventura County.
Ventura County's housing affordability hit 50 percent in 2012, but the real estate market has recovered since then, and rising prices have pushed homes out of reach for thousands of families.
Interestingly, Ventura County combines a very low affordability rate with a relatively high homeownership rate. There are two possible explanations for this: a lot of people live in homes they can't really afford; or, a lot of people bought their homes decades ago, when prices were lower, and could never afford to buy here today. Both are undoubtedly true.
High Prices, Few Options: Searching for an Apartment in Ventura
By Susie DiMauro
I knew $900 for a studio in downtown Ventura was below market rate, but I still held out hope for a good deal. "You'll like it," the property manager I spoke with on the phone reassured me. "It's small, but you know, it's cheap."
It was the fourth month of my housing search, and I was willing to see just about anything in my price range: $1,150 per month master bedrooms in shared homes, "cozy" studios with "apartment-sized" fridges and electric ranges for $1,250 monthly rent, even the "charming" cottage that turned out to be not a cottage at all, but a yurt with a kitchenette comprised of a hot plate and microwave.
So I kept an open mind about the $900 per month studio-it might be on the small side, but surely I could be flexible. Then I learned that the studio was in fact just a bedroom with a shared bathroom located down the hall. The building had no kitchen and allowed neither pets nor guests.
$900 per month in rent permitted access to the equivalent of dorm-style housing for adults-and was still more expensive than the pricy dormitory housing at many private universities.
When I accepted a new job in Ventura County and moved back to Southern California in January 2015, I was confident that with a little fortitude, some careful budgeting, and diligent online searching, I'd be able to find a great new place to live in no time at all.
Sure, I'd heard the statistics, read the articles, and heard friends and coworkers bemoan similar situations-low vacancy rates, limited supply, high demand-but while I grew up in Santa Barbara, I never knew that the cost of housing in the area would be so prohibitive until I began my own local apartment search.
Click Here to see the rest of Susie's search for a place of her own!
There and Back Again - a Millennial's Tale
by Sean Bhardwaj
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. once said, "Where we love is home-home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts." For many youth in Ventura County this statement rings true, both in its parts and as a whole.
When I graduated high school I was convinced, with all the naive certainty of youth, that I wanted to move to a place filled with liveliness, opportunities and new experiences. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego-any metropolis would do. Many of our young adults 18-34 (Millennials, as they are sometimes called) feel the same way. Their share, as a percentage of the total population in Ventura County, has declined from almost 30% in 1980 to just under 23% in 2013.
There's been a lot written and thought about Millennials-about how they lack work ethic or persistence, or about how they entered the workforce in a challenging economy saddled with debt from pursuing degrees that promised viable jobs. Millennials have seen housing values go upside down and seen families foreclosed on. The average tenure for a 2014 graduate is down to 2.3 years in any given company and they have seen within their lifetime entire industries grow and fall through technology. This can feel like uncertain times where things constantly and quickly change.
Despite being a Millennial, it's hard to claim any real authority on a diverse cohort spanning almost two decades. However, I have seen that what every Millennial, and I would perhaps go so far as to say every person, wants is the same-to live a meaningful and happy life. What that means and how best to achieve it can change over time, and I know it has for me. In my youth I was convinced that meant having a well-paying job, my own apartment and establishing myself far from home. So I left Ventura for Los Angeles for my undergraduate degree and then moved to Arizona to work. I was offered more than the median earning for Millennials in Ventura County which is about $32,659 annually. I also enjoyed the low cost of living in Phoenix-a new 800sqft one bedroom apartment cost about $700 per month including utilities.
As enjoyable as the desert was (when it wasn't 115 degrees), I returned home to Ventura County after 4 years. I had achieved what I had thought at the time were all the trappings of success but it wasn't home. Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes. It's feeling a sense of belonging-of being surrounded by people who care about you and whom you care about deeply. It's about a connection to a place that has shaped you in the form of myriad experiences with friends, teachers, mentors and the community. It's about where you want to put down roots.
Venturing forth into the world and winning a place to call your own, even for a time, seems as close as a rite of passage as we have in the modern day. Despite this, while 67% of Millennials in Ventura County are employed full time, 40% live with a parent who is the householder. While 67% again are single and never married, only 2.7% live alone.
Key excerpts from the 2015 State of the Region Report:
The past few years have been among the driest on record in Ventura County. In 2011, before the current drought started, most of Ventura County got at least three times as much rain as it did in 2014. In Ojai, for example, the average in 2014 was 9.78 inches, and in 2011, it was 29.98 inches. The average in Oxnard in 2014 was 5.43 inches, compared to 20.71 in 2011.
By August 2014, all of Ventura County was in a state of "exceptional" drought, the most severe level in the U.S. Drought Monitor's classification system. At the start of 2014, the county's drought level was "severe," the midpoint of the system's five drought levels. It moved into "extreme" drought in the spring and "exceptional" by the start of the summer.
Water usage varies greatly in Ventura County's cities. Areas with larger lots and warmer weather use more water for landscaping, and both of those factors mean water usage tends to be higher in the East County that the West. On the business side, certain types of industrial businesses use more water than the average commercial building.
The Camrosa Water District, which serves parts of eastern Camarillo and the Santa Rosa Valley, had the highest per capita water usage in the county in 2012, at 295 gallons per person per day. Oxnard had the lowest per capita-usage, at 106 gallons per day.
Camrosa and Simi Valley District #8 were the outliers with the highest per capita use. Only Oxnard, Santa Paula, and the portions of Simi Valley served by Golden State Water were below the Ventura County per capita average of 167 gallons per person per day. Camarillo City water district mirrored the average.
Oxnard uses by far the most total water, but Oxnard is also the county's largest city, and it has the lowest per capita usage. The City of Camarillo and the Camrosa Water District deliver nearly the same gross volume of water, but Camarillo City customers consume 44 percent less on a per capita basis, perhaps due to the fact that Camrosa customers in the Santa Rosa Valley are further inland and tend to have larger lots.
Read more to see the charts and graphs associated with this data
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
California State University Channel Islands
County Commerce Bank
County of Ventura
Gene Haas Foundation
Procter & Gamble
Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs Association (VCDSA)
The Port of Hueneme
Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors
Friends of the Santa Clara River
Kay Faulconer-Boger, Ed.D.
Maron Computer Services
Montecito Bank & Trust
United Staffing Associates
United Way of Ventura County
Brokaw Ranch Company
Cabrillo Economic Development Corp
Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc.
E.J. Harrison & Sons
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!