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Can’t afford to live in SCV?

Panel about ‘workforce housing’ Tuesday

Posted: September 10, 2008 10:18 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Andy Pattantyus takes notes during the Valley Industrial Association's symposium in May. The business advocacy organization will host a panel on workforce housing on Tuesday.

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In an effort to create more affordable housing in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Valley Industrial Association is teaming up with the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, city of Santa Clarita and Building Industry Association to host a panel discussion on initiating workforce housing for local employees.
The discussion comes after VIA, a locally based business advocacy group, hosted a workforce housing symposium earlier in the year. It brought together 40 local business and community leaders to discuss local workforce housing solutions.

Symposium participants concluded that economic growth in the Santa Clarita Valley has been hampered due to lack of affordable housing for workers.

"If you've got someone who recently entered the workforce, the salary is not six figures," said Kathy Norris, president and CEO of the Valley Industrial Association. "Even with median home prices in the $400,000s, it's still difficult."

While Norris noted that affordable housing projects have been initiated in the Santa Clarita Valley, they are not enough to meet the need.

The panel discussion and Tuesday luncheon, set to start at 11:30 a.m. at Hyatt Valencia, centers around developing longterm solutions by focusing on the current and future critical needs of economic development, business, industry and the community.

The panelists include Bill Kennedy, VIA board member, chairman-elect SCV Chamber of Commerce and city planning commissioner; Paul Brotzman, city director of community development; Holly Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the Building Industry Association; Fred Arnold, president of California Mortgage Brokers Association and American Family Funding; and Jack Shine of Habitat for Humanity.

Norris said the panelists represent a "well-rounded group" who will discuss their perspectives on housing in the Santa Clarita Valley.

"The message is that this is a solvable issue if we all work together to come up with appropriate solutions," she said.

It's a message Rod Smith, vice president of Bayless Engineering and Manufacturing in Valencia, hopes will resonate with the local community.

As the leader of a Valencia firm, Smith said Bayless has been impacted by the lack of affordable housing for his employees in the Santa Clarita Valley.

With most of his employees paid by the hour, Smith said, "They cannot afford to live here."
Smith estimates that 80 percent of his company's workforce commutes to Bayless from places like Palmdale, Lancaster and the San Fernando Valley.

With rising gas prices and a higher cost of living, Smith said retaining employees has become even more difficult.

Commuting for up to an hour and a half also becomes a strain on his employees' personal lives.
"You don't have a lot of family time," he said.

The company has created van pools for commuters, a temporary solution.

"We've got a couple of van pools to try and bring in people from Palmdale and San Fernando," he said.
But that might not last long because "gas is becoming a huge issue."

Smith hopes next week's panel will create opportunities for workforce housing to take shape in the Santa Clarita Valley, allowing companies like Bayless to attract and retain a strong workforce.

"Maybe something good can come out of it," he said.

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