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Affordable Housing for Ventura County Urged

September 13, 2003|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

For Ventura County's economy to stay vibrant and healthy, cities have to provide housing for workers of all income levels, experts told an affordable housing conference Friday in Thousand Oaks.

Although building affordable housing may seem impossible to city leaders -- because of residents' concerns about higher density, lower property values and crime -- the results are more likely to be positive than negative, said Azusa City Manager Rick Cole, a keynote speaker at the second annual Ventura County Housing Conference.

"There's not enough money in the world to make a $750,000 home affordable to someone who works in this hotel," Cole told the gathering at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza.

"I don't see affordable housing as a problem. I see it as a solution, attracting revenue, buying power, vitality, talent and investment," he said.

The conference, sponsored by the Ventura County Economic Development Assn., the Cabrillo Economic Development Corp., and Housing Opportunities Made Easier, is the latest effort by affordable housing advocates to address Ventura County's increasingly expensive housing market.

The county's median home price is more than $400,000.

Although politicians talk about the importance of providing affordable housing, not enough concrete steps are being taken to offer homes for restaurant workers, landscapers, teachers and police officers, experts say.

Cole, a former mayor of Pasadena who was instrumental in reviving the popular Old Town Pasadena, said leaders have to engage residents in the decision-making process and encourage them to realize that a well-designed, higher-density residential project, which might include retail establishments, can be good for the community.

To do that, cities need to solicit residents' opinions on the sorts of affordable-housing proposals they would welcome, Cole said. Azusa officials did just that by asking people at the city's annual street fair how they would improve the aging downtown, which had fallen into disrepair, Cole said.

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