February 3, 2023
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Housing projects in Ventura are well-funded but need to happen quicker

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The Housing Trust Fund of Ventura County has made impressive progress over the last year in its move to develop affordable housing units throughout the county.

At its annual meeting on Jan. 18, HTFVC described the steps they’ve taken to ensure future housing projects as well as the state of current projects.

Alexander Russell, HTFVC’s chief operating officer and board chair, highlighted the many accomplishments of the Housing Trust Fund over the last decade.

With over 30 significant donors and investors, including Bank of America, Limoneira and Williams Homes, the Housing Trust Fund remains well financed.

In 2022, the Housing Trust Fund funded a total of $14.7 million in affordable housing and built 1,120 units.

An additional impressive feat was their acceptance of a second land donation, Linda Braunschweiger, CEO of Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, told the Business Times.

One of those donations came from the City of Thousand Oaks and the other from the City of Oxnard.

Richard Green, director and lusk chair of real estate at the University of Southern California, provided the Ventura County multi-family forecast.

“The Fed is very focused on demand right now, and it’s raising interest rates to try to quash demand, but the fact of the matter is I don’t think this is principally a demand-driven inflation environment. It’s been largely supply driven,” said Green.

He explained that throughout the pandemic, as society neglected to spend on services and instead spent on goods, along with China’s COVID policy and the ongoing war in Ukraine, that put a lot of pressure on the supply chain, ultimately leading to a “devastating impact.”

He also mentioned that Ventura has struggled to keep up with the demand for multi-family housing units in comparison to any place in the region relative to its population.

“Ventura County has less than one-tenth the population of Los Angeles County, so one would expect it to have much less, but it’s going along at one-twentieth of the production of multi-family,” said Green.

Alan Greenlee, executive director of the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing, provided context for Los Angeles’s recently passed ULA Measure, also known as the Mansion Tax, and how it can be used as a case study for Ventura.

The measure allows for a one-time real estate transfer tax on all properties that sell for more than $5 million. Of the proceeds from the tax, 70% goes to affordable housing production while 30% goes toward tenant protection.

“Housing affordability and homelessness are two of the top three issues for voters in California,” said Greenlee.

Further, polling in Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles and the City of Santa Monica showed that if ULA was set at a level above $3 million, only 25% of voters saw themselves as ever having to pay the transfer tax, which lent the measure widespread support.

Regardless, Braunschweiger’s stance was simple: “We need more housing units.”
“That’s certainly what our mission is, to help support developers in building affordable housing and to get their projects funded in the very beginning so they can move through to completion,” said Braunschweiger.

She explained that with additional housing being built, the more pricing can vary and allow for a market that is competitive but affordable and available to the average worker.

She also noted that with the passage of Prop. 1 in 2018, the state of California provides matching grants to local housing trust funds, which has already greatly helped HTFVC.

In 2022, HTFVC raised $9 million, with the additional $5.7 million in funds coming from maturing bonds from ongoing projects.

The Housing Trust Fund Ventura County aims could raise another $10 million this year, which means the organization raises $5 million itself and then receives an equivalent matching grant from the state.

When looking to raise those funds, HTFVC often turns to its community, especially its business community, to help build up its available resources.

“Ventura County’s economy has been stagnant for years because we haven’t addressed that it’s a beautiful place to live but if you can’t afford to live here, you make work here, but can’t move here due to the price of housing,” she said.

According to Braunschweiger, Ventura has a strong coalition of people that advocate for affordable housing and over the last year or two, the local cities are recognizing that they need to be approving these projects when they come in.

“The County of Ventura has been extremely supportive about finding ways to fund affordable housing, we just need more of it,” she said.

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