Housing Is Not Quite That Simple
As I have commented before, during the course of interviewing candidates for City Council races in all the Sonoma County cities in August, the #1 priority in virtually every candidate’s questionnaire, was concern over housing and the lack therein. We all know that we had a housing problem (more demand than supply) before we lost 5,300 plus houses in the October fires. We all know that “Yours Truly” has been a very vocal advocate for building housing for many years. What you might not have known is some aspects I am going to talk about in this editorial comment.
Businesses are losing workers due to a lack of housing. Some of you might not believe that, but it is true. Some major employers in the Northern Bay Area are extremely worried about their core work force needs being able to be met for several reasons:
- Educational institutions are not turning out “job ready” employees for these companies. The graduates are not ready to go to work and be employed.
- Businesses are finding they have to raise wages to attract workers to live in our area, and that leads to “across the board” increases in wages to keep parity. How do businesses intend to pay for that? Raise the price of the service or goods they produce to the consumer. We pay!
- Housing is so tight, many employees of companies that have other sites, are opting out of this area. They are telling their employer “I think Colorado is better for me and my family, so I will take the transfer to Colorado” and they are moving away.
- Even if businesses can handle the business they have now with their tight work force, they are questioning whether they can sustain any growth with a local (to our area) business. In some cases, they are choosing not to expand, and even not to repair or maintain some of their buildings and equipment locally because they may be downsizing or moving.
So how does all this relate to our ECA members? In some cases, perhaps some of those concerns (or all of them) are being felt by some of your own workers and your own businesses are wrestling with the real question of whether this area will support an expanded work force by your firm. Even if it does not directly affect you, many of your employees depend on businesses hiring from you, or buying product or services from you, and if those “purchasers” are having trouble, it will not take long for that “trouble” to head your way in the form of reduced opportunities for projects or sales. Not only that, but you may be seeing some of your workers travelling from farther and farther away to get to local jobs and that may mean they are less dependable due to getting delayed on the road, or if you are paying them for fuel and vehicle, added costs just for them to get to work.
We have seen the local government officials catchy refrains “Build, baby build” and “We need 30,000 housing units in five years”. But what you have not seen, to a large extent, is a private side concerted effort to create a plan and get buy in from the elected and staffers to implement the plan. I do not mean to say there has not been some “successes”:
- The Santa Rosa City Council just voted last week to lower fees on building housing units higher that 3 stories in the downtown area. They realize they have urban boundaries and open space issues and tiger salamander issues which all translates into a need to build up, and not out, and do so in their urban core areas. This was a monumental move on the part of the SR City Council. For the first time in my memory, they have actually dangled the carrot in front of developers to entice them to build units they want. In talking to some developer friends, this might just be the gentle push that is needed to build these higher density units.
- Also, in the City of Santa Rosa, they drafted Measure N which will assess property owners around $30/$100,000 in assessed value to fund “Affordable Housing”. The ECA Endorses this idea and urges you to vote Yes on Measure N in Santa Rosa. These monies would go to subsidize housing for the workers our companies all need to retain or attract.
- In Windsor, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, and Santa Rosa, we have all seen a greater effort on the part of the Permitting departments to streamline the process, so homeowners or developers can move forward more quickly towards building their new house, addition, or new business.
- In several Cities, we have seen the City defer impact fees until such time as occupancy takes place. That only makes since-nothing is being impacted until the family moves in and starts using the drain system, water system, parks or schools. We need more of that!
What Can The ECA Do To Help?
Urge our member and families to Vote Yes on Local Measure N
Urge our member and families to Vote Yes on State Prop 5 (transfer property tax base to replacement property)
Urge our member and families to Vote No on State Prop 10 (rent control expansion for local governments)
Although our companies are the “in the ground” type rather than the sticks and glass above grade type contractors, we can still join forces with our allies and help out. I will soon be talking to our Workforce Development Committee and ask them to get more involved in supporting a group that will be asking developers what is needed for them to move forward on projects, collaborate with Cities and Counties on where those developers can find quick and approvable projects to move forward on, and our group will also help other Associations work with the City and County staffs to hold them accountable on how they are doing. If the City of Santa Rosa says they will turn plans into entitlement within 20 days, we will support checking on them and making sure they are doing so. If there are legit reasons for delays to those promised time lines, we will support working with businesses and other Associations to remove the impediments to the jurisdiction pushing those projects forward.
Building more housing is related to us in so many ways. Our own futures depend on having an adequate and affordable supply of housing in our local areas. Despite it not being simple, it can be done. The ECA is going to be working with some very smart and capable people and associations to push excuses away and get us to build more housing.
That’s All Folks!
Stormwater Erosion Season is Upon Us
On 10-19-18, the ECA and the North Coast Builders Exchange will be hosting a 2 hour workshop on Best Management Practices and SWPP compliance issues in Santa Rosa at 1040 Apollo Way (The NCBE Training Room). It will be featuring our own Mary Larsen from StormWater Specialists, Inc. and the City of Santa Rosa will provide us with Bob Oller who is in charge of all SWPP compliance for the City of Santa Rosa. The workshop will focus on smaller sites and will provide visual photos of what a “good site” is vs one that needs some attention. If you know any builders building houses, they will be the ones that can benefit the most from this workshop although all of our firms will get something useful out of the 2 hours as well.
The cost is $25 for members of the ECA and NCBE and $50 for non-members. Please call Mary at 707-546-5500 to reserve your spot!
Our Pal Robert Fedrick had a major stroke on September 12, 2018. He is getting out of the hospital this week and is talking and walking. I am sure you all join me in wishing Robert a speedy and complete recovery!
Mike Ghilotti of Ghilotti Bros fame, and Nancy Bennett who is our local rep for the League of California Cities, were on KSRO 1350 this morning (10-1-18) explaining why folks should Vote No on Prop 6. If you missed it, here is a link so you can listen to the 10 minute interview