Ventura Chapter Protects Affordable Housing

The city of Ventura is experiencing economic growth which has led to a thriving downtown, quickly rising rents and an interest in high-end housing on the west side of the city.  However, this threatens displacement for the many low-wage workers that help drive Ventura’s service and agricultural economy.  The Ventura Chapter of CAUSE developed a committee to represent the community’s low-income residents in the local battle heating up over affordable housing.  Last December CAUSE leaders helped defeat opposition to farmworker housing from homeowners on the city’s suburban east side.  They also worked to maintain affordable housing requirements in the West Side Redevelopment Plan, which could have otherwise threatened gentrification of the city’s largest Latino neighborhood.
 
In June, city officials proposed removing Ventura’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, which requires developers to set aside at least 15% of the housing they build for low to moderate income residents.  The change was abruptly placed on the City Council agenda with virtually no public engagement or community outreach.  The Affordable Housing committee knew they faced a tough fight against deep-pocketed developers.  A strong coalition of local community leaders and homeless service providers quickly emerged to stand up for affordable housing. Seeing the groundswell of community opposition, city officials pulled the item off the agenda at the last minute, promising to get more public input.
 
The coalition knew the issue would be back soon and began to prepare, doing door to door outreach in the low-to-middle income neighborhoods of the city and collecting 360 signatures from supporters of affordable housing.  After a heated stakeholder meeting with community members and developers, the item was placed back on the Ventura City Council agenda.  CAUSE’s Executive Director Marcos Vargas published an op-ed in the local paper with former Ventura mayor and urban planning expert Bill Fulton while dozens of CAUSE supporters responded to our call to action to email the city council on the day of the vote.  Shortly before the meeting, city staff limited their proposal to a 5-year moratorium on inclusionary housing in downtown alone.  However, the affordable housing coalition remained firm that any end to the requirement was unacceptable.  
 
The coalition packed the council chambers with about 60 residents who made public comment for over two hours, overwhelmingly outnumbering the handful of real estate developers who spoke against the affordable housing rule.  Swing vote Cheryl Heitmann was undecided until the final vote after three hours of discussion, where she sided with the affordable housing coalition to defend inclusionary housing.  
 
The Ventura Chapter’s Affordable Housing Committee will continue to take on major policy battles in the city to ensure all families who work in Ventura can afford to live in the community.
 

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