Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Changing SLO Demographics

Catching up on my Tribune reading since I was gone over the weekend, I spotted this front page article in Sunday's paper entitled Younger Working Class More Likely to Leave.

Here's the bottom line. . ..

Younger, working-age people are twice as likely to leave San Luis Obispo County over the next two years as are residents over 45, according to a new survey.

The two main reasons: the cost of living and the lack of affordable housing.

What does this mean for Grace over the long haul? Is the rest of California really any less expensive?

Curious for your thoughts?


Andy Gibson said...

Oh man, young, straight out of Poly Engineering, and self-employed on the central coast. Your begging me to respond here, Tim!

Housing is out of control and I believe it will pop and housing will drop somewhere between 10 and 30%, which will still leave ridiculous prices. Matter of fact, one of my business partners is moving to Kansas and withdrawling from our business at the end of this week, literally, partly because of housing prices. Oh, and he has already purchased a 2,600 sq.ft. 5 bd. 2 bth. house in Kansas for 200K. Geez.

Another friend of mine (I guess I should say ours since Jeannett reads this blog) is considering moving out of LA to Texas for the same reason, with the equity they have made with their TWO BEDROOM CONDO in La Habra, they can buy half of a 3/4 bd. house in Texas. Again, give me a freaking break. I think that shows, Tim, that no, the rest of California isn't that less expensive. Except maybe Fresno, Barstow, or Baker.

The cost of living doesn't really bother me so much because I do love living here. The hardest consumable thing is the gas when I drive 21 miles to work and Jeannett drives 35 the other direction. Gas sucks and I have my opinions on how to cure that problem (aka. Google "Oil Shale, Shell, Colorado"), but that is for another blog :)!.

It seems the only way you can buy now is if you have somebody in your family or have had somebody in your family to help you with a down, somehow, someway being loaded parents, trust funds, loaded grandparents, etc. Unfortunately, Jeannett and I can probably be considered as coming from low-income and didn't have that luxury. Not that I am complaining about it, I love my current house and I love where I am in my life today compared to where I came from. God has blessed us to the Nth degree.

But in spite of all of this, regardless of the cost of living and how stupidly inflated and greedy the real estate market is in California, I know God has put me here for a reason. He gave me five business partners, four of which I love and the other is leaving all as a part of his plan, I am sure. Jeannett and I have come to terms with the housing here in California to the point where with two degrees from a California University, we might have to rent for eternity. I am perfectly happy with that if that is the hand God has dealt for me. If He intends for us to own, it will be on His time and by His will, not mine, even though I am dying for a place of my own so I don't have to flush over 1K a month in rent.

Anyways, this blog has been mostly me just streaming my thoughts, but I figured I had to respond as it definitely struck a chord with me. You asked my thoughts, and like always, you got it. Long story short, in the quote from the paper: "Younger, working-age people are twice as likely to leave "INSERT CALIFORNIA COUNTY HERE" County over the next two years as are residents over 45, according to a new survey."

GDL Wong said...

Since I am one of the statistics of those working here and LEAVING for Illonois I do have some thoughts:

On this: I think it's true. Frankly, I live with a family of six (bought a house with them - I use to own 1/3 of the home - and ironically I AM LEAVING California). My employer is generous, but I cannot afford a home by myself, and my housemate works as a IT tech for the county - and he cannot afford either (which is why we pulled our resources to buy a 1200 sq foot home). BUT it took three adults, and four kids to squeeze into a 1200 sq ft home to pull it off.

I thought of this issue: long term impact of Grace must be of spiritual intuition and 20/20 vision.

Any church with a desire to impact the community must be organic.

If Grace was in Brooklyn the ministry consideration would be how to meet gang members, prostitutes and less-fortunate. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Church have successfuly, by God's grace, to met that need. If you were in a predominantly wealthy area, La Jolla, your approach would be different. Grace, by and large, is fellowship that is well-educated with people who enjoy a slower paced lifestyle. The long term impact is a strong college ministry [you will have your college students], but I think you will find a wider gap of fewer families because the median income to buy a home here is currently 90k. I think you will find more core servants for Grace more and more in early twenties and late fifties. Why? Your college-aged core and those who have managed to buy a home and call the Central Coast their home.

Special ministry needs will be the need to maintain spiritual perspective when you are pulling 50k and still see a need for your wife to work. Thus, resulting in tired couples and families. With mothers working you will find the family values being challenged more and more with two parents working. With a more impacted schedules - opportunities for fellowship, and ministry opportunities could become less. Or another demographic largely undiscussed are the single mothers. Can you imagine the challenge of being a single mom on the Central Coast with three kids trying to make rent? What is the scenario currently for a single mom? How about a 750 sq foot apartment for $950.00 with three kids? How do you find babysitters? How do you work and be a single mom? In the middle of ALL that - how do you maintain your perspective of having your eyes on Jesus? Single moms, or parents in five years must surrender the idea of ownership. HUGE MINISTRY ORGANIC opportunity!

The undelining current is a more insidious possibility: having schedules that are so demanding, you will find people challenged in their times of remembering '..unless it abides in the vine...unless you abide in me.'

If there is the possibliity of fewer families you will find the challenges of bringing young twenty-somethings with the AARP members (God bless them both - they have both impacted my life).

Christians will be faced with the American dream or is it God's will for me to own a home? People in the Mid-West might not have to confront this question because homes are so inexpensive (a relative term) that it's an after-thought, but when your scheduled is so EATEN UP by trying to pay mortgage and IT WILL IMPACT your Christian life it DOES become a much needed prayer consideration if it is the will of God.

It is possible - I did it with a family in a 1200 sq foot home. It hasn't impact my scheduled, but I had to give up my private weekends to serve at Grace. I maintained a frantic pace, but not as much as my CEO (he's the man!). There is very little recreation time, and I will confess - maintaining my spiritual intimacy with Christ is challenging in the Central Coast of not falling into the tyranny of your Palm schedule.


WHICH might bring the question: why am I leaving? It's not for real estate - it's for a beauty. Now THAT'S WORTH PURSUING.

ADDENDUM: Real estate prices in SLO county have consistently spiked 2% every month. There is a multitude of different economic factors, but I don't think SLO home prices will ever go down. The cost to build here would shock you with current city fees, and there are a few tax measures down the pipe that will bite more into your pocket book. Among them, increase garbage fees - maybe an extra $60 a year? San Diego prices are going down because of city fiscal budget fiascos. Real estate prices are tied to city budgets and city measures. Growth is regulated more than normal California cities. I do believe in 20 years my former 1200 sq foot home will be worth $800k. Don't believe me? Would you ever have believed paying $575 for a 1200 sq foot home? Trust me..it will never be mistaken for Brad Pitt's summer Central Coast getaway.

Jeannett Gibson said...

Location, Location, Location.

I'm not saying that there aren't other wonderful places to live in this country...but if California wasn't in such high demand, the prices wouldn't be so high. Working for the City of Solvang, I hear crazy stories all the time. A man came in a few weeks ago and told me that he moved to AZ a few years ago, but the weather was just intolerable. He lived his whole day indoors in a climate controlled environment. He sold his 3,000 s.f. 4 bedroom house with a swimming pool...only to buy a 2 bedroom townhouse in Santa Barbara and STILL take out a loan for the portion of the mortgage that the AZ house sale didn't cover. He said it was worth it to him. Not sure if I agree, but I've never lived anywhere but CA.

It's crazy, it's expensive, and it's overwhelming...but, it's home. (For the Gibsons anyway).

Jeannett Gibson said...

Oh, and a quick sidenote: there is a theory that the increase in housing is also attributed to the fairly recent aspect of home ownership as an investment...historically, people bought their home and lived in it. If they bought a second home, it was purchased with the sale of the first. It was rare that people owned multiple homes. Now that real estate is part of your "Portfolio", it eats up a large portion of the available market, driving prices up.

I think Gordon is right on. The challenge for Grace is how to keep young families from running around like chickens with their heads cut off with no time left for meaningful fellowship.

Kevin Heldt said...

Yeah, it is most likely only a matter of time before we too will paddle out to more affordable waters. That is the reality for our family looking at the huge disparity between incomes and cost of living (primarily home ownership costs) in this area. For now, we're able to swing it, but it can't really be argued that commuting 3 hours a day to and from a job (because that is the only place somewhat nearby who employs "my kind"), traveling 30 miles to our church, and living in SM where we have next to zero ties or connections (because it's the only place we can afford a home) is ideal. It's the same thing down in Goleta where I work. All of us younger folk less than 10 years removed from college can't afford to own there so it is kind of the countdown for how long we can stand either renting or commuting. We have a very bimodal (cool word) distribution at work too with a lot of people with less than 10 years' experience and a lot with 30 years plus but hardly anyone in between. My company will most likely be facing the same challenges that Grace Church will be facing in 10-20 years: what to do about the absence of the 30-something crowd. As that is the typical age for young families these days, it will probably make the "face" of Grace look a little different. And while I don't think other areas of CA are much better (with the exceptions that Andy pointed out) for us, we're far more convinced that God has a large family in store for us than a long-term stay on the Central Coast or in CA at large. Bottom line, for the long-term, we'd like to be able to raise our children (and continue having and adopting them) on a little land and not have to be forever indebted nor mortgage our peace to do it. So when we must go, we will go.

Andy Gibson said...

And that is a sad, sad reality, Kevin. Jeannett nailed it on the head:

"there is a theory that the increase in housing is also attributed to the fairly recent aspect of home ownership as an investment...historically, people bought their home and lived in it. If they bought a second home, it was purchased with the sale of the first. It was rare that people owned multiple homes. Now that real estate is part of your "Portfolio", it eats up a large portion of the available market, driving prices up."

It's not just a theory. I can easily argue it is fact. Again, the real estate market has turned greedy. It will take a slight turn when all of the people that died to jump into the market on 0% down variable interest loans begin to default, and they will, I guarantee. 43% more people purchased homes on variable interest last year than in the year prior, and is expected to climb for the next couple of years. Then these poor people, which are stretched to the absolute limits already, are goin to default the second the feds decide to make some big interest jumps....all because people had to own multiple homes.

What does this mean for Grace? Don't really know, history will tell. What can they do? Like Gordon pointed out, just minister to the poor people that are stretched. Other than that, not much, I'm afraid.

Oh, and that 90K median to purchase a home here is BS. That might be the published value, but of course they (the government) are going to say that because they don't want to scare people from moving here. They are going to publish the smallest number they can for a standard family purchasing the smallest, dirtiest, crappiest house in the city/county.

Tom Ramler said...

What does it say about housing prices when a couple like Andy & Jeanette are renting? Where does this lead us...

It was not so many years ago that banks would only loan you 25% of your NET for a home & you had to put down 20%. Now, 0% down, interest only, adjustable rate mortgages with teasers. Is it any wonder that prices have gone up?

Look at the auto industry. The Big Three couldn't produce a product that was competative so they enticed buyers by leasing them cars based upon inflated resale value assumptions which lowered the monthly payment. But, three years later the used car lots are full of cars recently off lease which won't move. Next, they offer 0% loans to move cars. As the pool of buyers shrinks they lower the lending requirements. Now GM's bonds are rated at junk bond status and they are trying to sell GMAC.

My crystal ball is telling me that GM has to go into bankrupcy to shed it's legacy pension & health care costs, just like the airlines.

So where is housing going? As ARM's reset based upon the Fed's actions and subsequent prime rate increases, more of the speculative buyers will be selling.

And back to Tim's question: What does this mean for Grace? I believe that Grace should be teaching it's members about financial responsibility, debt free living, and living beneath our means.

I'll stop...for now

Jeannett Gibson said...

What does it say about housing prices when a couple like Andy & Jeanette are renting? Where does this lead us..."

Hey! What's that supposed to mean???


Jeannett Gibson said...

Ok, Ok...last post, I swear...

In reference to the comment about City fees being exorbinant and driving up the cost of housing, I think that is an oversimplification. In the City of Solvang, it will cost you about $25,000 in fees (I don't know SLO's costs, but they're probably in the ballpark). Now, this sounds like a lot before you've even picked up a hammer, or gone to Home Depot, and maybe it is a lot...but there's no way that $25K or even $40K in fees is driving the cost of housing up to prices like $600,000 for a 3 bedroom home. (Dont forget that a majority of those fees pay for water/sewer plants and infrastructure which are pricey). For reference, 2 years ago it cost $175 per square foot to build a house. Today: $350/s.f. Why? 1) Insurance costs. The cost of workers comp, etc. is astronomical (don't get Andy started). 2) Lumber. Between the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, lumber costs have in some cases QUADRUPLED. Add to those factors the basic economics of supply and demand, and there you have the major reasons for the increases in housing costs.

By the way, it is ILLEGAL for Citys to make a profit on their fees...if you think they are too high, ask to see the fee study they are legally required to have prepared to justify the costs. Don't forget: your city employees don't work for free! :0) (and City attorney fees and insurance costs are much to blame as well for the high cost of doing business...it's incredible how much a city shells out for litigation every year!)

Amy Kardel said...

Tom, you nailed it.

Also, SLO has always suffered a "brain drain" of young people to the lure of big city jobs, locals and Poly graduates alike. This is a big issue, with no easy answer as we don't have a huge base of large companies that pay top dollar in the market. I serve on the chamber of commerce board and we are all looking to address this as much as we can, hopefully by growing local companies up to be industry leaders, among other things...

Peter and I consider ourselves blessed to have been born here and committed enough to come back and do what we can in SLO. They'll have to take us out of here in boxes!

jeff martin said...

The high cost of living scenario is not unique to SLO town. It's just the location and and growth (or lack of) compounds the situation beyond most individuals means. The rest of CA is up there. Come to think of it, so is the whole country in general.

This is personally, professionally and spiritually challenging. I'm a family man who very much desires to bring my siblings here. My career wish is to be surrounded by talented and aspiring young individuals but trust the re thing will create a large difficulty in that wish. Lastly and most important, the whole SLO life mentality becomes spiritually challenging because I often struggle with putting too much dependence on it. Woops, did I say that.

Frankly, the whole SLO life thing is getting on my nerves and seems to be over-rated! Good on ya Gdl Wong. God bless you and youre new journey and hope it works out. Sorry I did not get a chance to meet you. There is certainly a life outside the area of SLO town.

What does this mean for Grace over the long haul? Who knows. I certainly don't. It may simply be much of the same as you indicated in your love it... hate it... blog. It's just you need to add the older generations/retirees to it...

bryan said...

I would agree, with the stats! SLO housing is simply OUT OF CONTROL!!!!!! We WILL contine to see more school closings, more of the younger familiy sector evaporate unless we:
1. all become rich
2. we are all given a new house for free
3. husband and wife both work
4. we know we are called by God to live here and just simply endure it
5. something intelligent is done about about by who knows who.

here is a little post i had several months ago with our own little dealings with the SLO MONSTER.


Jeannett Gibson said...

HA! I told you so! :0)