Livable Communities Newsletter
Vol. 12, No. 45
February 2018
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Welcome to Our Winter 2018 Livable Communities Newsletter! 
As we indicated last quarter, affordable housing has been recognized by many as the biggest challenge to the sustainability of Ventura County.  The issues with housing cut across all of the 3 E (Economy, Environment, and Equity) foundations upon which the Ventura County Civic Alliance was founded.
This quarter the Livable Communities Newsletter focuses on the Housing Solutions Working Group,  which is a diverse group of stakeholders meeting at California Lutheran University since mid-2017. This effort is not just talking about housing problems and possible fixes.  The group has undertaken truly exciting work that is implementing tools that create housing solutions.  
The first article is an introduction to the work of the group by Matthew Fienup, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Economic Research & Forecasting at California Lutheran University. This introduction discusses the depth and range of the effort and the diversity of the stakeholders.
The next two articles discuss details regarding two of the tools being used to create more affordable housing:  Community Land Trusts and Measure E in Thousand Oaks.
Steven Dwyer, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County, outlines the principles behind Community Land Trusts and shares how these can be used here in Ventura County.
In the final article, I review the process undertaken by the City of Thousand Oaks to better understand and utilize Measure E, the City's current growth control measure put in place in 1996.  Formal review of this measure shows how it has the potential for increasing the number of future affordable housing units.  
Let us know what you think by contacting us at
Stacy Roscoe 

Ventura County Housing Solutions Working Group

by Matthew Fienup, Ph.D.

When it comes to housing in Ventura County, there is more common ground among individuals and interest groups than is usually understood. For one thing, there is universal appreciation for the beautiful natural environment and unique quality of life that has set Ventura County apart. At the same time, there is broad consensus that a lack of housing is causing worrisome economic decline in the region. The long term economic vitality of Ventura County depends upon adequate housing.
Common ground is a powerful incubator for new ideas and innovative solutions.
That's the premise of the Housing Solutions Working Group, a diverse group of stakeholders who have been meeting at California Lutheran University since mid-2017, to tackle the housing shortage head-on.
Members of the working group represent nearly the full political and economic spectrum of our County:   advocates for housing of every kind (affordable, farm-worker, and workforce or market-rate housing), economic development groups, large employers (including two of the largest employers in the county), agricultural operators, individuals from the County's two major Universities, labor unions, social justice advocates, and even a prominent open-space conservation organization. In the words of one of our members, the members of our group "are not the usual suspects."
The goal of this diverse working group is to advocate for housing in a manner that is consistent with our shared values. In particular, the group is working to:
  • Identify and implement creative solutions that are being used elsewhere, which can be implemented in Ventura County under existing land use policy
  • Advocate for local policy changes that facilitate infill development and other reasonable new construction while maintaining open space and farmland
Following more than 6 months of work by the members of the working group, a couple of policy tools have emerged which hold real promise for Ventura County. Among the creative solutions that the group is currently pursuing are the use of a Community Housing Land Trust (following the model of Sonoma County) and implementation of transferrable development rights (following the model of Churchill County, Nevada and Naval Air Station Fallon). Each policy is already at work and creating value in other parts of the country. These are tools with a track record of creating value in communities struggling to balance growth and conservation. The beauty for our region is that we don't have to reinvent the wheel.

For more information about Community Housing Land Trusts, please read the nearby article by Steve Dwyer, which treats the topic in some detail. For more information about transferable development rights, please see   this article in Central Coast Farm & Ranch.

Community Land Trust - The Balance of Affordable Home Ownership and Building Community Assets

by Steven Dwyer

The need for affordable housing in Ventura County is, perhaps, the most significant issue for the economic vitality of our region. Young, educated adults move to lower cost regions, companies can't attract talent due to high housing cost, and hard-working families struggle to afford housing even though they earn the median income for our area. For most of us, the housing dream remains the opportunity to own a home - for a stable place to raise a family and for the opportunity to build wealth through home equity.

The solution to most challenging issues involves innovation and a new outlook. While most discussions of affordable housing assume affordability can be achieved only through renting, a Community Land Trust (CLT) in Ventura County offers the opportunity for hard-working families to own their own home and build equity while retaining the valuable and precious land as a community asset forever.   Approximately 250 CLTs operate throughout the U.S. and, while a CLT may own land for a variety of community purposes, the primary purpose is to ensure affordability of housing with an emphasis on ownership.

Ventura County has a long history of preserving land in trusts for future generations to enjoy, primarily for environmental and recreational purposes. This is a key reason Ventura County is an attractive place to live but it's also a factor in our high housing costs. A housing CLT offers the same opportunity, preserving land for the creation of high-quality, affordable home ownership opportunities for our workforce.

This is how a Community Land Trust achieves affordable homeownership while also building community land assets:

1)      The CLT is a non-profit organization that acquires parcels for development or existing homes using a variety of funding sources including donations, grants and government funds, and by coordinating with for-profit developers.

2)      Any land acquired by the CLT remains in the ownership of the CLT forever. This ensures that homes associated with CLT land remain within the supply of affordable housing in perpetuity.

3)      Homes are sold at affordable levels to qualifying low or moderate income families. Purchasers must have the necessary credit and employment history to secure mortgage financing.

4)      The purchaser only buys the home and enters a long-term land lease (generally 99 years) for the property which remains under CLT ownership.

5)      In exchange for a home priced below market value the purchaser agrees to limited appreciation tied to the change in median income over time so when a home is resold, it can again be purchased by a low or moderate income family. This mechanism makes the housing unit affordable in-perpetuity, a critical aspect of the CLT model.

6)      The CLT is the steward of the land for the community, manages the resale process and often provides homeowner education and other services.

A Review of Thousand Oaks Measure E

by Stacy Roscoe

On October 24, 2017, the Thousand Oaks City Council received the results of a comprehensive review of Measure E, a growth control measure put in place in 1996 that requires voter approval for any amendment to the City's General Plan that increases the cumulative residential density (housing units / net acre) beyond the City's General Plan as of November 5, 1996.
Density is a function of net, not gross, acreage (i.e. Street coverage does not count in the calculation of density.)  When the net acreage calculations were completed in 2017 with significantly better computer tools than available in 1996, the unit base for Measure E was seen to be 81,124 units.  The study also showed that at the end of 2017, the Thousand Oaks planning area had 48,503 units built.  This means that the City is approximately 32,000 units under the Measure E upper limit.  Council accepted the numbers, but did not believe that building 81,000 units was reasonable.  Most focus is on what to do now, and Council told staff to prepare a plan.

A key finding of the October study was that no changes to baseline occurred between 1996 and 2017.  General Plan Amendments (GPAs) moved units from one category or location to another, but the total baseline did not change.
Another take away from this analysis is that housing density can be managed by holding density to a net zero.  This means that lower density in one area may allow higher density elsewhere without impacting Measure E limits.   As a result, several neighborhoods built in an area with a density range higher than the actual as-built density range can receive General Plan and zoning amendments to reduce the density range to better protect the character of the existing neighborhood. 
Based on Measure E, reducing densities in one area of the City has the effect of making those units potentially available elsewhere, subject to City Council authorization.  Logical areas for receiving the reallocation of housing could be the commercial corridor along the 101 which does not need all of the allocation of commercial and retail building that is currently provided.  The General Plan can be adjusted by the Council without triggering a vote under Measure E as long as the residential and commercial limits are not exceeded.

5400 units are theoretically available for reallocation through General Plan Amendments (GPAs). These areas were built with lower density than the planning designation for the area, not just on the lighter side of the planning range designation.  

A Special Thank You Goes to Our State of the Region Report Sponsors:

Research Sponsor - 
Ventura County Community Foundation

Presenting Sponsor - 
Ventura County Community College District

Domain Sponsors - 

Aera Energy
California Lutheran University
California State University Channel Islands
County of Ventura
Gene Haas Foundation
Montecito Bank & Trust
Southern California Edison
United Staffing Associates
VCDSA - Ventura County Deputy Sheriff's Association

Supporting Sponsors -

The Port of Hueneme
Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors
Ventura County Office of Education

Contributing Sponsors -

City of Ventura Community Development Department
Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP
Gold Coast Transit
Maron Computer Services
Procter & Gamble Paper Products Company
Stacy and Kerry Roscoe
Ventura County Transportation Commission

Friend Sponsors -

California Lutheran University Center for Nonprofit Leadership
Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc.
Friends of the Santa Clara River
Kate McLean
Sherie and Joe Gibson
Slover Memorial Fund
United Way of Ventura County
Ventura College Foundation

Media Sponsor -

Pacific Coast Business Times