Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Affordable Housing Issues Return

Affordable housing, or lack thereof, back before council

By Nao Braverman
While Ojai has gained a reputation as a comfortable second home to Hollywood stars and retirees, many longtime residents have complained that affordable housing is growing increasingly scarce.
About five years ago, the Area Housing Authority set out to fill the needs of Ojai’s lower income residents by offering to build 50 affordable rental units on two acres of property on a Bryant Street lot neighboring Whispering Oaks, adjacent to the Soule Park Golf Course. But the organization was forced to drop the project last year because they could not secure enough funding to cover the building costs, even with substantial aid from the city, according to Douglas Tapking, executive director of the Area Housing Authority in the County of Ventura.
The project was swept under the rug for sometime, while the owner of the Bryant Street lot looked for another affordable housing agency to take on the project. In the meantime the two acres next to a storage facility behind Whispering Oaks remained vacant.
Recently Bill Kendall, the property owner of the Bryant Street lot, approached city planners with a new project proposal. He is now considering building a for-sale project, on the same vacant lot, with half of the homes to be affordable for moderate-income senior buyers of 55-years old and up. The other half are to be market-rate homes according to city manager Jere Kersnar. He had no further details on the project proposal and Kendall could not be reached for comment.
On Tuesday night the city council was scheduled to review the basic concept of Kendall’s proposal and whether the Redevelopment Agency would participate in financing the project.
When the nonprofit Area Housing Authority attempted to build the 50 affordable rental units in 2002, they were offered the property for about $600,000 said Tapking. At the time the city had set aside $500,000 to aid in the purchase but even then the construction costs were too expensive and there was a funding gap that the agency could not fill.
At the Tuesday night’s meeting, the City Council was also scheduled to discuss re-budgeting the $500,000 that had been set aside for the failed affordable housing project.
In a 2006 study, the grand jury noted that Ojai had not created any new affordable housing units for low-income housing that year although the city’s goal for 2006 was to build 25 affordable units for low to very low-income residents.
At that time the only affordable housing project being considered in Ojai was Kendall’s.
The grand jury’s study noted that Camarillo and Ojai were the only cities that had not added any affordable housing units for low income families.
In addition the Regional Housing Needs Assessment required Ventura County to allow for 28,481 total new housing units, 450 of those to be built in Ojai by 2114, as determined by the Southern California Association of Governments. The RHNA requirement is determined according to need based on current population statistics. It does not specify how many of those new units are priced, however, said Kathy McCann, Ojai’s redevelopment director.
The breakdown will be determined by Ojai’s housing element which the city is still working on, said McCann.
What has been determined so far is that 70 percent of Ojai’s residents are in the affordable range, which means anything from very low to moderate income.
An affordable two bedroom home for very low-income residents in Simi Valley sells for about $108,200 and slightly more in Camarillo, according to Rob Bruce, deputy director of housing and social projects for the city of Simi Valley. An affordable home for low-income residents is $166,000 for a two-bedroom home in Simi Valley and in the $200,000 range in Camarillo, according to Randy Richardson, housing program analyst for the city of Camarillo. An affordable home for moderate income residents costs $293,300 for a one bedroom and $334,700 for a two bedroom in Camarillo, according to Richardson.
The appropriate cost for what is considered affordable homes for moderate, low-income and very-low-income residents has not been officially determined yet, said McCann, though city staff is working on a document that addresses those prices. The exact breakdown of moderate, low-income, and very -ow-income residents in Ojai is also still being prepared, said McCann.
The median income for Ojai households is $44,593 according to Wikipedia.
Though the proposal addresses some housing for moderate-income seniors it does not offer housing to younger buyers or low-income and very-low-income families as was addressed in the grand jury’s report last year.
The $500,000 might be allocated to a future affordable housing project, if the council so wishes, but all nothing will determined until it is discussed by the council, said Kersnar.


Anonymous said...

A very thorough and chronological
story by Nao. This was a council campaign issue last year obviously, because of city council and staff bate and switch pattern to appeal community support
by offering senior affordability
starting at $600K? Be serious!
Assuming any units sell and not
stay vacant as the rest of newly
built projects in town, I wouldn't expect any awards given out for
finally meeting the quota of
affordable units the grand jury
complaint was calling for. PL

Anonymous said...

Further comments-I would hope that any loyal resident would not allow high density projects like this invading Ojai valley.Simple physics will not support that much traffic and sprawl in a finite setting. For market condo projects disguised as senior or affordable housing captures the paradox of the problem. There are and have been real concerns about the dwindling housing stock here for middle
incomes with families and other residents. It is not reactionary but realistic that unmanaged unplanned for growth is the broader ominous threat, and projects
shouldn't be misrepresented. PL