Escondido, CA
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Where are the affordable homes?

~ Guest Opinion

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?

* * *

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.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

2 responses to “Where are the affordable homes?”

  1. Marilyn Mueller says:

    Well put, Kirk. We now live in a city chocked full of rentals that bring a transient society. These are folks who may not give a darn about potholes or if our library is outsourced. Reasonably priced homes are needed, for sure. Two bedroom, one bath homes! Starter homes that a young family can be in for a few years, then step up to something more spacious.

  2. SoCalBaker says:

    The reality is that Escondido has low performing schools, homeless people wandering around and half the stores along Escondido Blvd are for Spanish speakers. I think the council is thrilled that anyone would want to build anything in Escondido, because right now there does not seem to much reason to start your family in Escondido which would want starter homes. Fix the schools, round up the homeless, get rid of the the Mt. Vernon Inn and all the other prostitution prone motels, then you will have a demand for condos. Any new housing development never sell out right a way, not so in San Marcos and Carlsbad; Harmony Grove Village, if built in Poway or Rancho Bernardo would have sold out right away, not so in Escondido, why, because you will have to send your kid to Del Dios Middle school. Not one mother that I know takes their kid to Grape Day Park, why, because of all the homeless taking it easy on the sidewalk or under a tree, drunk, stoned or crazy, not to mention all the campers in the center for the arts parking lot. Fix the schools, fix the homeless, try a little code enforcement and maybe some day repave the streets and the builders will say there is a great market for housing in Escondido. I have lived in Escondido for over 14 years and while some things have improved slightly most have gone down hill.

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