Riverside, Calif – A bold new approach to housing, including the reform of out-of-control regulations, is needed to solve an affordability crisis that is denying home ownership to a growing number of working families and keeping the Inland Empire from reaching its economic potential, participants in a regional housing symposium said today.
“The decline in property ownership threatens to turn much of the middle class into a class of rental serfs, effective wiping out the social gains of the past half century,” said Joel Kotkin, renown author on economic, political and social trends, and the keynote speaker at “The Cost of NOT Housing” symposium at the Mission Inn.
Kotkin joined regional leaders including San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, Rancho Cucamonga Mayor and League of California Cities President L. Dennis Michael and developer Jeff Isenstadt in discussing what can be done to encourage more housing development.
Southern California and the Inland Empire face a serious housing shortage, which is driving housing costs beyond the reach of working families. The cost of an average owner-occupied home in California is 2 ½ times the national average, while average rental costs are 50 percent above the national average.
Increasingly restrictive zoning practices at the local level not only are exacerbating the problem, they prevent communities from moving forward and addressing key priorities, symposium panelists agreed.
“Housing is essential to a healthy, thriving community,” said Ciriaco “Cid” Pinedo, President of the Hope through Housing Foundation. “Businesses make decisions on where to invest based on housing costs and the ability to attract qualified employees.”
Cities such as San Bernardino, which is in bankruptcy proceedings, have been particularly hard hit by the lack of housing.
“San Bernardino is probably the poster child for cities that have not had an effective housing strategy,” said Burguan. “One of the biggest problems we have is the lack of housing. We cannot police our way out of our problems. Increasing our housing stock is a big part of the solution.”
Isenstadt, President of JCI Development Inc., a major developer of commercial and master-planned communities, said housing is a catalyst for economic growth in a community.
“Some of the most successful projects we have seen have started with housing. Not shopping centers. Not strip centers,” Isenstadt said.
Warren said a lack of leadership at the local elected level is the No. 1 impediment to the American dream.
“We have one city in the Inland Empire that is threatening a recall over a general plan. That has to stop. Right now, we aren’t even thinking about the people, but how we’re going to get re-elected,” Warren said.
As a result, said Mark Dowling, Chief Executive Officer of the Inland Valleys Association of Realtors (IVAR), “The trend of homeownership is declining. In 10 years, there will be more tenants than homeowners.”
Greg Devereaux, San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer, suggested that housing can be used to address bigger community concerns.
“My experience (as former City Manager in Fontana and Ontario) has been that if you go to a city and say we want to help the homeless, you’re not going to get a lot of support,” Devereaux said. “We did it in both of those cities by saying, you want to revitalize downtown, we have a way to do it; let us build that housing.“
The symposium was sponsored by National Community Renaissance (National COREIVAR, the California Apartment Association Greater Inland Empire; Building Industry Association Baldy View Chapter, Building Industry Association Riverside Chapter, Housing Authority for the County of San Bernardino and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
About National CORE, Hope through Housing
National Community Renaissance, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing. National CORE manages nearly 9,000 affordable, senior and market-rate units in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. Over the past two decades, its Hope through Housing partners have provided more than 2 million hours in supportive services to enhance quality of life, including preschool, afterschool, senior wellness and upward mobility programs. For more information on both organizations, please visit www.nationalcore.org.
Steve Lambert, The 20/20 Network