Is Escondido’s City Council committed to providing a full range of housing options for the residents and would-be residents of the city?
I am a resident, homeowner, and citizen of Escondido. I am also a Realtor, and a passionate advocate for housing of all types within our community. Lately, I have been disturbed by the increasing number of new and proposed multi-family developments cropping up in our city. This is not because I am opposed to the densities, but because they are almost entirely being proposed as rental properties.
Property ownership has been a bedrock principle in sustaining a free, stable, and prosperous society since before this country was born. It is the foundation of personal wealth.
When I have suggested to members of the City Council and staff that the social and economic health of our community are being compromised by building so many rentals rather than residences that can be purchased, I am given the same answers: “They’re being built to condo specifications” as if that will eventually solve the issue; and, “We can’t tell builders what they can build” and, “Builders tell us there’s no market.”
When was the last time you saw an apartment/condominium development successfully convert to condominiums that will be sold? Escondido’s headlong race to encourage development and reap the short-term gains of developer fees and increased property tax revenues belies the fact that these are one-time gains.
In most cases, if and when a rental development changes hands, the title never changes because the acquisition is of the entity that owns it, not the property, meaning the property tax rate remains at the initial levels established at project completion. If, instead, these properties were sold as condominiums, every time a unit is resold, the tax rate will adjust to market values at the time of sale, meaning an incremental increase to the taxes the city receives.
To the second answer I say: “Nonsense”. This city has plenty of latitude in what it can ask of a developer, or incentivize in a way that achieves its goals. Density bonuses, fee mitigation, land swaps, and many more strategies can be employed. All it takes is a willingness to set policies that encourage more permanent housing in our city.
As for claims that there is no market for condominiums in our city, again: “Nonsense”. The real estate market is starved for affordably-priced housing under $500,000. The condominium development I live in has homes priced in the high $300,000 to mid-$400,000 range and homes that go up for sale rarely last more than a few weeks on the market before being snapped up.
Homeownership brings stability to a community. It encourages involvement of its residents and a sense of pride in the region. What do you think? Is Escondido’s City Council committed to providing a full range of housing options for the residents and would-be residents of the city?
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Kirk Effinger is an Escondido Realtor® and community activist. He has lived in North County for over 30 years. He is a former Union –Tribune columnist.