Two reports out this week detailing the top counties and cities across the nation for young homeowners and renters also show the worst of the bunch, a list that includes Ventura County sandwiched between major metropolises like San Francisco and New York City.
The reports, one released from the rental search engine Rent.com and the other from Trulia, detail and reinforce the stereotype of big cities requiring big rents while offering a surprise, and a punch to the wallet, of young people looking to own homes in the cities where they tend to congregate.
Rent.com’s “Naughty or Nice: Naughtiest Cities for Renters” places the city of Ventura at the No. 2 worst spot, between New York, New York, and San Francisco, citing Ventura’s extremely low vacancy rate (one of the worst in the country at 2.3 percent). Residents “often find themselves sticking it out in their current apartment instead of taking the risk of leaving and being left out in the cold,” wrote Rent.com, which also listed the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment as $1,578, based on an average of its listings.
Tim Piasky, CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California, alluded to restrictions on new construction for the low vacancy rate.
“I think the problem comes down to supply and demand,” wrote Piasky. “There is a tremendous housing shortage in the city that continues to be exacerbated by the many barriers to housing production that not only exist currently, but continue to be increased instead of decreased.”
The 255-unit complex proposed by developer John Ashkar for the downtown Ventura district, which was seemingly on the fast track to construction, has run into issues with the city’s downtown inclusionary housing ordinance that requires residential complexes of this size to have 15 percent of their units set aside for lower-income renters.
Bypassing the low-vacancy rate by purchasing a home instead brings up a different problem: A similar report from the online real estate site Trulia shows Ventura County ranking alongside the heavy hitters for high cost of living, which especially affects young people who wish to be here.
The report is detailed in the article “Millennials can afford to become homeowners — just not where many of them live.”
Bill Watkins, executive director and professor of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at CLU, says that the results don’t surprise him.
“There’s a reason we have far more college graduates than jobs for graduates,” said Watkins. Watkins points to a lack of manufacturing jobs in the county as one reason why young people either don’t stay or, if they do, can’t afford to buy a home. He also credits the draw that states like Texas have on young people for a multitude of reasons, specifically in relation to cost of living, where jobs have been “created at 10 times the rate of California.”
On the other side of the equation is the location itself. As a coastal community, Ventura attracts retirees and the wealthy from across the country.
“If a person has a business in Kentucky, he can cash out, get a couple million dollars and can move to California,” said Watkins. “Why did he move here? Because he likes it exactly the way it is. So he’ll vote for the status quo as soon as he gets here. So there’s a large public pressure to keep growth down.”
A recent report by CoreLogic DataQuick shows that across the board, home sales are down, somewhat dramatically in certain regions of Southern California, specifically in San Diego where sales dropped 11.4 percent. In Ventura, home sales dropped by 1.3 percent in November.
At the same time, median prices have risen. Ventura County saw a 3.4 percent increase in price in November. Without new construction, Watkins says, the cost of homeownership and, in correlation, rent will continue to rise.
“I’ve been saying for at least a decade that any project in Coastal California is controversial,” said Watkins. “There are a huge number of forces that are against any new building, and unless there’s new building, housing cost is going to be high.”