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Ventura County

Affordable Housing Focus of Conference


Concerned about Ventura County's growing housing crisis, more than 200 real estate professionals, politicians, planners and housing advocates gathered Friday to discuss ways to create more affordable dwellings for an expanding population.

"Who are the people we are trying to house? They are our kids," said Michael McGuire, president and chief executive of Affinity Bank in Ventura. "They are the police, the firefighters, the teachers and nurses--the people we need to keep our communities running."

McGuire said making more housing available for poor and middle-income residents will require creative solutions, including mandatory rental-property zoning and encouragement of co-ownership between developers and tenants. Another idea, he said, is allowing boarding houses, where seniors with large residences can rent rooms to those unable to pay market rents.

"We've got to stop trying to 'think outside the box.' We've got to blow the box up," said McGuire, who also is board president of Cabrillo Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit builder of low-income housing.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 15 inches; 569 words Type of Material: Correction
Amgen expansion--An article that ran Saturday in some editions of the California section incorrectly stated that Amgen Inc. was expanding its operations in Colorado, rather than in Newbury Park. Amgen plans to open a new administration building at its Ventura County headquarters this month.

Although Ventura County's median family income has grown to $75,000, the increase has been far outstripped by the hike in housing prices, which have risen at an annual compound rate of 10.3% since 1995, said economist Mark Schniepp of the California Economic Forecast in Santa Barbara.

The median price of a Ventura County home sold in July was $395,710, which Schniepp suggested was a relative bargain compared with a new home's median price of $505,800.

The anticipated demand for housing is not being met, as the percentage of new housing being built has dropped by double digits. The first casualty has been a virtual loss of job growth, as employers such as Kinko's move headquarters out of state and biotechnology giant Amgen expands not in Newbury Park but in Colorado.

Brian Brennan, deputy mayor of Ventura, said politicians must alter land-use policies to accommodate various housing types so prices can be lowered and availability increased.

Brennan said cities should allow more mixed uses--a combination of housing with retail or commercial shops--in well-designed neighborhoods more densely built yet aesthetically attractive.

Communities should be designed to encourage pedestrian traffic, be close to public transit and have a variety of housing types to serve the housing needs of single people, families and seniors, he said.

A number of local politicians also spoke during the all-day conference at the Clarion Hotel in Ventura.

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