Residential overcrowding has become a serious problem in Oxnard as soaring land prices dry up the supply of affordable housing. Almost half of the households in the city
are considered low-income, and there were about 6,500 overcrowded households, which are defined as residences with more than one person per room. What is the solution?
Marco Antonio Abarca Attorney, California Rural Legal Assistance Migrant Unit There is a General Plan coming out now, and it has to reflect the community. But only three of 22 people on the General Plan advisory committee are Latinos. I think this overcrowding problem is a Mexican-Latino
issue. You have to have some contributions from that community. As it is now, there is no contribution. If you look at the General Plan, you see a real favoring of interests--big developments, big new condos and houses--and the problems of farm workers are ignored. Unless we make moves right now, you're going to see farm worker poor turn to urban poor. I've lived in different parts of the United States. I've traveled all over Latin America. Some of the poorest housing I've seen is here in Oxnard. I have clients who are farm workers who say they may be very poor in Mexico but at least they have space. There are funds out there for farm worker housing that should be tapped. This county has two or three beautiful farm worker housing developments. Cabrillo Village is beautiful and the housing they have in Fillmore is tremendous. That is the sort of future we should have. I think in the past a lot of what Oxnard has done has been to say, well, we have too many farm workers here, let's just distribute them to Ventura, Camarillo or Fillmore or anywhere else. No one wants to have them in their own back yard. But the reality is that farm workers are here in Oxnard. It's an Oxnard problem that has to be solved by Oxnard.
Sal Gonzalez Oxnard housing director The simple answer is we need additional housing for those families in overcrowded conditions. Additional funds will have to be made available to the city. At the moment, the city of Oxnard has limited
resources and can't build the level of housing needed to accommodate many of the people who need it. That's true for almost any city. They need additional resources from the state as well as the federal government to be able to build more housing. We also may want to review our own community's expectations as to the amenities we require for housing that is going up in the community. We are requiring three-car garages. We also require that single-family housing come with pre- landscaped front yards. We may also want to review the types of development fees that we are assessing and the types of infrastructure fees that we are also requiring. Who pays for off-site improvements like streets, curbs and gutters and utilities? The developers pass it on to the buyer. For a long time we kind of operated with the philosophy that the developer should pay for this or that, but the end result is that the buyer ends up paying for it. We also require payment for potential impact on traffic, schools and other impact fees. When someone in the city moves from an existing house to a new one, I don't think it's appropriate to charge an impact fee because they are here already. These are some of the things we have control over.
Rodney Fernandez Executive director, Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. The City Council needs to exercise some leadership and quit talking about the issue as though it doesn't exist. Oxnard has a lot of overcrowding and a lot of need for both low- and moderate-income housing.
It's not being built because the City Council doesn't want to do it for whatever reason. There has to be a change in the political will of the City Council. Once the City Council says we're going to do this then there are a couple areas in terms of policy they can address. Through the General Plan, which is being updated, they can begin to establish priorities for affordable housing and designate certain parts of the city as key areas for it. In their dealings with developers, they need to establish policies that all developments of scale need to provide a mix of housing. Also, one program being used in other jurisdictions is a trust fund. By using different resources the city over time can begin to build up a fund that can pay for the subsidies needed to build low-cost housing. The city can more creatively use its block grant funding. In the past the city has used this money basically for parks and public works instead of housing. It also could recognize Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. as an agent and work collaboratively with us and other for-profit developers to do affordable housing. We've been knocking on the door for five years and we've not really had any opportunity to work with the city.