Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wishful thinking on Gold Rush Ranch

It's hard to believe that local realtors and others really think approving the Gold Rush Ranch project will somehow boost our local economy in the short run (there are questions about the long run, too, but I'll ignore those for now).

Amador County isn't an economic island. We can't ignore state and national trends, including these:

-- Housing starts nationally in January and February were the lowest since before 1959, according to the Department of Commerce. Demand for new homes is way down.

-- The people who fueled our local housing bubble (and ensured home prices rose beyond what local working families could afford) were folks with large amounts of equity in their homes in urban parts of California. Now that the state real estate bubble has burst, there's no longer a big pool of equity-amenity refugees able to quickly cash out a home and move to the foothills.

-- Last year's gas prices (and increasing awareness of carbon footprints) caused commuters to think hard about how far they live from work. Long-distance commutes of the type common in the past will be less acceptable to homebuyers in the future. Homes in rural subdivisions built on a commuter-resident model are going to be less desirable than homes closer to jobs.

-- The stock market decline and resulting crash of 401(k) values, combined with declines in home equity, have led many people to delay their retirement by 3-5 years, or more. We won't be seeing as many people retiring in the next few years as once anticipated.

While people may once again start moving to the valley and foothills, it's going to take a while, according to the Sacramento Bee.

And in any case, a project approved now won't be built for some time. There are even approved subdivisions for sale locally.

We need to build our local economy, not more houses for people who don't already live here.

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