by Paul Moomjean
Ventura County has always been a tale of two cities. For all the wealth and prestige of Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, and surrounding areas, there have been pockets of poverty that have plagued other parts of the county. For years Simi Valley was viewed as a trailer park community, a reputation that is stereotyped in TV and movies. Oxnard has lowered crime rates as the community continues to grow larger-than-life shopping centers and castles for high schools and district buildings, but much of the problems facing those communities is because neighboring communities like Thousand Oaks have made housing and maintaining a livelihood nearly impossible.
The city of Thousand Oaks, however, has made strides in passing two ordinances to provide both homeless shelter resources and affordable housing. For the ultra-conservative community (remember the town folk protesting Hooters, anyone?), these are the necessary steps for a community to serve those left behind.
I worked in Thousand Oaks on and off over the past 20 years as a teacher at Hillcrest Christian School and as a book seller and children’s book organizer at the Borders Bookstore (RIP, old friend). I have strong roots in this community through coaching county all-star wrestling teams, helping run the Newbury Park wrestling tournament, and writing for the Ventura County Reporter since November 2008 (happy 13th anniversary to me!). When I read in the VC Star that the city council “is buying the former site of the Hillcrest Christian School for $10 million to convert into affordable housing,” I was thrilled.
Too often communities lose their best and brightest middle-class residents after college because they cannot afford to live in the place that raised them. According to Realtor.com, “In August 2021, the median listing home price in Ventura County, CA was $799K, trending up 12.5% year-over-year. The median listing home price per square foot was $449. The median home sold price was $780K.”
Yet, “In August 2021, the median listing home price in Thousand Oaks, CA was $975K, trending up 9.6% year-over-year. The median listing home price per square foot was $470. The median home sold price was $950K.”
That is almost $200,000 more than the rest of the county. How are young adults supposed to buy a house when the market is at almost $1 million?
The VC Star reported, “The City Council voted 5-0 at its Aug. 31 meeting to approve the purchase from the private school.”
“It would provide a great opportunity for the city to collaborate with a potential affordable housing developer of the site to provide much-needed affordable units in the city,” Haider Alawami, the city’s economic development manager, told the council. The council also voted 4-1 to require that the units, such as townhomes or condominiums, be for sale, not for rent, so that low-income residents can build equity. The Star reported, “Councilman Kevin McNamee dissented on grounds that he favors rentals with a stipulation that renters can only live there for a limited time.” Because that’s how housing goes?
He went on to add that this will encourage “occupants to economically move up and purchase a market-rate home [. . .] My concern with low-income housing ownership is that this model offers no incentive to move out of low-income housing.”
Thousand Oaks also plans to make an agreement with Ventura County and a commercial real estate firm in hopes of gaining state funding to run the local Quality Inn and Suites as the city’s first homeless shelter. With a 4-1 vote to authorize the progressive idea, Councilman McNamee dissented again, saying “any program to address homelessness must include a pathway to independence, not pauperism and dependency.”
While the city looks to move into the future, McNamee appears to be the villain here, fearing homeless and low-income house owners in his city. I’ve spent a lot of time around “men” like McNamee, who blame everyone who didn’t make it like they did. I’m sure he’s a hard worker, but he also has posted articles on Facebook against the minimum wage and has suggested that newly released criminals shouldn’t be allowed to live in his community after paying their debt to society.
For our society to move forward and provide pathways to succeed, our county has to continue these types of caring ideas but get rid of these Scrooges like Kevin McNamee, men who seem annoyed that others in their youth aren’t where he is in his old age.