Source: Ventura County Star | The Star Editorial Board

Not since Moorpark, the county’s youngest city, blossomed with new home development in the 1980s has Ventura County seen anything quite like the Harvest at Limoneira — a 2,000-home development rising in Santa Paula on farmland formerly owned by the agribusiness firm.

In growth-averse Ventura County, it is a rarity. The fact that Limoneira, founded in 1893, has deep community roots and a history of being a good neighbor helped smooth the way for public acceptance. It helped, too, to know that the company has no intention of getting out of the farming business. It just put in what it calls the largest single planting of avocados in the county in the last 50 years.

The Harvest is moving forward at a considerable pace. More than 700 homes have been completed, sold and occupied, its 37-acre sports park has doubled the city’s park space, the City Council gave the go-ahead in February to allow more than 500 new homes than were originally approved, and a major national homebuilder has just purchased all 554 lots that will be developed in its second phase of construction.

Now, the question is whether something of this scale will do anything to help ease the county’s critical housing needs.

There are differing opinions on how to answer that question. Most economists believe that building more market-rate housing — and homes at the Harvest are priced at about the median for single-family homes in the county — is a key step necessary to address California’s housing crisis. Statewide policy in recent years has embraced that theory, with laws intended to spur housing development.

The thought is that home construction has lagged for decades, and that the subsequent shortage has helped to drive up home prices and rents, contributing to the statewide affordability crisis. More market-rate housing, they believe, will eventually ease the supply-and-demand imbalance and stabilize housing costs across the board.

The public isn’t completely buying that idea.

In a paper published last month, researchers at UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis and Tulane University revealed their findings of a survey of 5,000 voters nationwide on housing policy. The results, they report, is that among voters, “allowing more market-rate housing is regarded as ineffective and draws only middling levels of public support.”

What they found instead was support for rent controls, government subsidies, limits on property taxes and restrictions on Wall Street investors who buy up homes and rent them out for profit. The researchers told the nonprofit news organization CalMatters that responses from Californians were in line with those nationwide.

There will be yet another test of this sentiment in California in November, as voters will be asked again to allow local governments to adopt more expansive rent controls. Similar measures have twice been rejected in recent years, but perhaps stubbornly high rents have shifted some opinions.

The survey results must be dispiriting to housing advocates, specifically those aligned with the YIMBY movement, or “Yes in My Backyard.” They have actively pushed localities to approve more housing of all kinds, and for the state to apply pressure to force localities to do so.

The study suggests there may be a sweet spot. If market-rate housing also helps to subsidize housing for low- and middle-income families, it can be seen as something that expands housing opportunities across the board.

 That is the case with Harvest at Limoneira. Rather than providing affordable housing within the project, developers have paid an up-front $5 million fee to help fund construction of 166 affordable rental units elsewhere in town.

If we’re ever going to work our way out of this housing affordability crunch in Ventura County, it will take an all-of-the-above approach. More apartments, more housing with affordability restrictions, more market-rate homes.

The market underscores the need for such housing. Those new homes in Santa Paula are filling up fast.

Contact Us

How can we help? Send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt