An exhaustive report released at talks May 22 and 23 detailed an extensive picture of Ventura County that may help individuals and organizations best plan for the county’s future, but it also underscored the continued cost of living here.

The 2007 State of the Region Report from the Ventura County Civic Alliance explored 12 areas of interest for the county.

Focus areas included agriculture, civic engagement, cultural resources, economy, education, environmental quality, land use and housing, natural resources, public health, social services and transportation.

Less than a third of residents over the age of 25 in the county – or 29.8 percent – have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That puts the county’s education level a bit past statewide figures, but a city by city breakdown shows that the number varies throughout the county.

In Thousand Oaks, for example, 26 percent of the population has bachelors degrees. Ventura, Simi Valley and Ojai share rates of about 18 percent. Meanwhile, the county’s poorest cities, Oxnard, Fillmore and Santa Paula, had the lowest number of college graduates (about 10 percent, 7.4 percent, and 5.4 percent of adults, respectively). Port Hueneme also had a graduate rate of about 10 percent, although it fell in the middle ground for poverty levels.

Meanwhile, as has been reported before, countywide median home prices rose by about $65,000 a year between 2000 and 2006, the report said.

A statistic that may be more telling about the cost to live in this county, however, is the rise in rental rates.

It now costs more than almost any other part of the state to rent a home or apartment in Ventura County. In just a year – from the first quarter of 2006 through the beginning of this year – residential rents grew by an average of 8.9 percent across the county. In other words, the county’s average monthly rent of $1,525 was exceeded only by the Los Angeles/Orange County metropolitan area, where rents in the same period reached $1,588.

It’s also becoming harder for those who want to purchase a home in Ventura County. Again, only Los Angeles and Orange Counties are more difficult places to purchase a home than Ventura County.

According to the report, a comparison of median home prices to median incomes (assuming a house is affordable if a mortgage payment requires less than 30 percent of monthly household income) shows that affordability has dropped from 35 percent when the report was first published to 13 percent in 2005, despite a steady rise in median incomes.

Such statistics may be tempered by the fact that a University of California, Santa Barbara poll cited in the report showed that fewer respondents find the cost of housing to be a strain on their family, but researchers will keep a close eye on the role housing and rental costs play in the county.