At least 200 new homes reserved for middle-income families will probably be built in Ventura over the next several years under an affordable-housing measure adopted this week by a divided City Council.
By a 4-3 vote, the council Monday expanded the incentives offered to developers who build modestly priced housing and virtually assured that the homes be kept far below market value by tying their resale prices to the inflation rate for 15 to 20 years.
Using today's prices, a family of four earning about $45,000 a year would be eligible to buy a new three-bedroom home for about $130,000--a substantial saving over the $200,000 such a house could fetch on the open market.
"If we don't at least try to start building affordable housing, we'll never see the light at the end of the tunnel," Councilwoman Nan Drake said. "It's going to get darker and darker as the prices of homes in Ventura skyrocket."
Some critics, however, have attacked the program for depriving families of the ability to cash in on escalating home values in California's soaring real estate market. Since 1983, the state's Consumer Price Index has risen only about 22%, whereas the cost of new homes in Ventura County has jumped by more than 67%.
Others, many of whom were forced to stand as they packed the council chambers Monday night, complained that inexpensive housing tracts could jeopardize the quality of surrounding neighborhoods.
"We have to look toward making this a community we all want to live in," William Hamilton told the council, . . . not try to shoehorn people into housing who can't afford it."
But a majority of council members, who have been studying the issue for 1 1/2 years, said the program represented a first step in meeting the overwhelming demand for Ventura homes.
The three-member council subcommittee that prepared the plan had originally recommended requiring 25% of all new housing set aside for middle-income families. But after developers registered objections at several public meetings over the summer, the council agreed to keep the program voluntary.
In exchange for building relatively inexpensive housing, developers will receive speedy approvals for their projects that can reduce their waiting periods by as much as a year, said Dave Valeska, project manager for the city's community revitalization division.
Four developers with projects totaling about 800 units have already expressed interest in participating in the program, but, with the city's growth restrictions, probably only about 200 such units will be built in the next few years, Valeska said.
As testimony to that interest, Lynn Jacobs, president of Affordable Communities Inc., applied for permits Tuesday to build a 150-unit tract of $120,000- to $130,000-homes on the city's east end near Saticoy. Already, there are more than 800 families on her waiting list.
"There's always going to be less houses than demand," Jacobs said. "But this is a really good first effort."