2014-11-14 / Community

Living in Ventura County isn’t cheap

Local rental costs are among the highest in America
By Art Van Kraft

Ventura County has become one of the most expensive places to rent an apartment in the United States, according to a federal report on housing.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently released its annual report, which looks at rents in cities across the United States to determine if hourly wages are keeping pace with rent prices. The Washington, D.C.-based organization, which advocates for affordable housing, said there is a large gap between wages and housing costs in Ventura County.

The report’s findings are based on a calculation that rent should not cost more than 30 percent of a household’s income.

The report estimates it would take an hourly wage of $29—or an annual salary of $60,000— to afford an average two-bedroom apartment in the county.

A two-bedroom apartment in Camarillo averages $1,700 a month. That means a renter needs to earn $28 an hour, or $59,000 a year. In the Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village area, an average two-bedroom rents for $1,900, requiring an income of $33 per hour.

The problem is that in many cases, rent far exceeds the 30 percent threshold, forcing many households to choose between paying for food or rent.

Higher rents also contribute to overcrowding in homes and apartments. Sometimes two households share a singlefamily home. Higher density neighborhoods can mean more cars per household and more traffic.

With occupancy levels over 97 percent, the demand for housing in Ventura County is at a record high, which has created a boon for landlords. The Dyer Sheehan Group of Ventura used National Low Income Housing data to compile a report for the UC Santa Barbara 2014 Economic Forecast Project. Dawn Dyer is the fi rm’s president.

“With a countywide vacancy rate of just 2.5 percent, landlords have been aggressively raising prices on most rentals,” Dyer said. “Many of the property managers and landlords we interviewed said that the market is the strongest they have ever seen. Many properties have waiting lists and get multiple applications.”

Camarillo has a very tight rental market, with a 99 percent occupancy rate as of July. Over the past year, average rents in Camarillo are up 8.9 percent.

Moorpark is also a tight market. Dyer said there were only two studio apartments listed for rent in the city last month. If housing is not affordable, she said, people will seek jobs elsewhere or be forced to live outside the county.

“If you’re a Camarillo police officer and you like your job, you’re going to find affording housing somewhere else, like Santa Clarita or the San Fernando Valley,” Dyer said. “We here in Ventura County have gotten the overflow from Santa Barbara. As Ventura becomes less affordable, people have to go even further. The commuter migration south toward Los Angeles is evidence.”

Jamshid Damooei, a professor and chair of economics at California Lutheran University, said his findings support Dyer’s conclusions, and the results are grim for many residents in Ventura County.

“Based on our research, 15 percent of workers in the county would need at least two fulltime jobs in order to afford twobedroom housing,” Damooie said. “Forty–six percent have to work one-and-a-half to two jobs in order to afford two-bedroom housing. Finally, 77 percent of workers in the county cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment with only one full-time job.”

Damooie said these conclusions are based on the 30 percent of income standard.

The trend can be alarming for those whose only choice is to pay a higher percentage of their income for a place to live.

“Part of the new dynamic of the population is that Ventura County is not affordable for very many residents,” Damooie said. “We are seeing an economic divide between the very rich and the very poor and fewer residents can afford to buy homes.”

According to the report, over half the people born in Ventura County want to stay here, but given time, the professor said, there won’t be enough room. Still, he remains cautiously optimistic about the future of the county.

“Creative ways to design buildings with new types of architecture, and towns with fewer cars and more foot traffi c is something the millennial generation is supporting now,” Damooie said.

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