Working families should beware of County’s General Plan

 

 

By Mike Judge

This my opinion and is not being written on behalf of the Simi Valley City Council.

Ventura County used to be an affordable place where the middle class could thrive, but the dream of affording a home is now out of reach for most residents.

It’s not surprising that over 35,000 people left Ventura County between 2013 and 2017.

Our community runs the risk of shutting middle-class and working families out of the American dream if the affordability crisis is not addressed.

Despite this concerning trend, it doesn’t seem like the longest-serving Ventura County supervisors are paying attention. Instead of focusing on solutions to pocketbook issues like affordability and housing, the county’s leaders spend their time making the cost of living even worse.

Take the proposed sales tax increase to fight climate change as the latest example. In December, a majority of the Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of a consultant for up to $100,000 to gauge voters’ appetite for a sales tax hike that would fund various environmental programs.

The fact that the board is even considering a regressive sales tax that would hit low-income residents the hardest shows just how out of touch some of the county’s leaders are. There is not much more the county can single-handedly do to fight climate change. But it can take steps to help alleviate the affordability crisis. That’s where their focus should be.

The 2019 Ventura County State of the Region report provides some illuminating statistics on how tough things have gotten for middle-class and working families. The report measures what workers need to earn to afford to live in Ventura County. The disparity between wages and the cost of living continues to grow. (To view this section of the report, visit tinyurl.com/vcregionreport and go to Page 33.)

According to the report’s estimates, only a handful of well-paid professionals like lawyers and business executives earn enough to support a family with three children on a single income. And a decline in high-paying, goods-producing sectors like manufacturing, oil and gas, and construction continue to squeeze out Ventura’s middle class.

One major contributing factor to the high cost of living is out of control housing costs. In 2019, only 28% of residents could afford the county’s median-priced home of $600,000—that is a significant decline from 47% of residents in 2012. For renters, it isn’t any better. Rent increased 45%, from under $1,400 per month in 2009 to $2,000 in 2019, according to data from Dyer Sheehan Group.

If Ventura County is going to remain a thriving community, families need to be able to afford to live here. That’s not possible until housing becomes affordable.

Housing policy is where the county can act.

Ventura County is currently updating its general plan, which will serve as the blueprint shaping development and growth until 2040. This is an opportunity for the county to adopt policies that will stem rising housing costs and encourage responsible development.

However, some supervisors seem to be doing everything they can to make housing even more expensive. The current draft of the general plan includes questionable things like banning natural gas from new homes and office buildings. This leaves residents subject to expensive electricity bills and public safety shut-offs.

County residents can hardly afford symbolic efforts under the guise of climate action that make energy and homeownership even more expensive. But because the county is not conducting a full economic analysis of how the general plan’s policies will impact local residents, none of us will know how much this will actually cost us. What responsible person would buy something without knowing the costs?

This is not the response to the affordability crisis that we need.

While the Board of Supervisors considers raising sales taxes and banning natural gas from homes, there are thousands of residents struggling to make ends meet. The general plan should be used to make Ventura County more affordable. It should also lay the foundation to provide better opportunities for all residents, not regulate us out of jobs.

Before our leaders propose ideas that will continue to drive up the cost of living, they need to ask themselves if they want a community that is out of reach for everyone except the wealthy.

Editor’s Note: This is an opinion article.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

Judge is mayor pro tem on the Simi Valley City Council.


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Sharon Roose
Sharon Roose
1 year ago

I agree 100% the politicalian need to go!

Mark Savalla
Mark Savalla
1 year ago

Thank you for the insight. A breath of fresh air from a politician.