Centennial is an important step toward providing quality housing opportunities as well as much needed services and amenities.
Building the Future: The Need for Housing in California
The lack of quality homes for working families, seniors and others has been a growing problem since the 1990s, and it stands to get worse in the years ahead before it gets better.
From 1980 to 1990, a period of tremendous housing construction throughout California, annual production averaged more than 200,000 units (single and multi-family). Between 1990 and 1997, however, production averaged only 91,000 units per year - trailing demand by 145,000 units annually, according to the State Department of Housing and Community Development. In 1999, a "boom" year for the housing market nationally, there were less than 140,000 new residential permits issued statewide.
Compounding matters is the fact that California's population is growing. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state's population is expected to grow from 30 million (in 1990) to 45 million people by 2020. That's the equivalent of adding the entire population of Florida (the nation's fourth-largest state) to California within the span of a generation.
This growth isn't optional, it's inevitable. Our expanding population will come from a natural increase - more births, fewer deaths - and not from a great ingress from other states or countries. This means that most of the population growth, more than two-thirds, will be children born here.
"We used to build housing to create demand - now, we need to build housing to meet demand."
- Dr. Fernando Guerra,
director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles
at Loyola Marymount University
Housing Crunch Hurts Everyone
Limiting growth isn't the answer - all that will do is increase pressure elsewhere, negatively impacting the state's economy. Kids that grew up in California will be forced to move further away and out-of-state, impacting businesses and tax revenues.
The housing shortage affects all income groups, according to a study in the Los Angeles Times.
Housing shortages have historically gone hand-in-hand with rising housing prices and rents, lower homeownership rates, increased crowding, and longer commutes. In the late 1980s - a period of rising housing prices - many California businesses left the state because of the problem of attracting and keeping workers.
If trends continue, California will build less than 60 percent of the new housing units needed to accommodate projected population and household growth.
The statewide need for housing is clear: To keep pace with demand, California homebuilders would have to build 220,000 housing units each year for the next 23 years - that's every year, fully sustained, with no drops in production, irrespective of economic or other outside factors.
The Need in Southern California
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) reports that Los Angeles County needs more than 50,000 new housing units a year - but in 2000, only 10,000 permits were issued. Furthermore, the unincorporated areas of the County alone need another 47,000 housing units by 2005.
By 2010, the cumulative demand for housing in Los Angeles County will exceed the number of permits issued by 650,000 units, according to Dr. Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.
As alluded to earlier, "no development" isn't an option - the population is increasing and it's not going to stop anytime soon. Allowing for factors like wetlands, hillside, floodplain, and farmland protection, supplies of developable land are least plentiful in areas like San Diego and Los Angeles counties, according to the State Department of Housing and Community Development.
So the question is not if, but how development should proceed - and just as important, where?
Infill is Not Enough
Infill development - the process of building within existing urban areas - isn't the single answer. Infill development in existing urban areas and suburban expansion meet only 65 percent of the state's demand. And in areas like West Los Angeles in Los Angeles County, there is little land left for infill or any other type of housing. This is due to a variety of constraints including environmental, local restrictions and homeowner opposition.
Said an article in the American Planning Association's Planning Magazine: "As much as we may like development to focus on infill and redevelopment, such efforts will only solve part of the growth problem…calling for infill development to the exclusion of new growth is unrealistic."
Centennial -- The Right Solution, The Perfect Site
"Because infill projects will not on their own meet the tremendous need for new housing in Greater Los Angeles, new master-planned communities that are ecologically sound and promote a balance between jobs and housing must be expedited."
- The Center for the Study of Los Angeles
at Loyola Marymount University
Housing experts agree that the "old" patterns of growth must change. They believe homebuilders need to focus on planned communities that address housing as well as other needs, from open space and resource preservation to jobs, schools, shopping and health care.
Centennial is one solution for working families and seniors, and a perfect site for this kind of development - a unique "hometown" where they can live, work and play in homes they can afford.
Centennial will be located on the Kern County/Los Angeles County border (near the junction of Interstate 5 and State Route 138), on land that has been used for cattle grazing for more than 100 years. It is envisioned as a stand-alone community that would bring a wide range of housing, jobs, medical facilities, education, cultural and recreational facilities, and other services to an area that has expressed a need for these services.
About half of the approximately 11,700 acres will be permanent open space. About 6,000 developed acres would include numerous villages made up of neighborhoods, stores, offices, schools and parks, combining to create a hometown atmosphere. There will be a broad mix of housing for all income levels - from apartments to low-density neighborhoods and active adult living.
The need for housing in Kern County/Los Angeles County is undeniable. Projects like Centennial not only will help increase housing opportunities along the Kern/Los Angeles County border, but they also will improve the standard of living throughout Southern California and the state.