By Carlos Rodriquez
BIA Baldy View Chapter
New single-family home construction has remained flat in the Victor Valley for the third consecutive year, with only 244 permits in 2013 – an increase of 80 permits over the past year. This is still a long way from the height of the housing market in 2005 when 6,408 permits were pulled or roughly 43% of the total permits in the entire county. Today, the Victor Valley permit activity only accounts for 13% of the total countywide permit activity.
This reduced permit activity has resulted in significant job loss and increased unemployment in San Bernardino County. From 2005 to 2012, construction industry jobs countywide declined 42% with almost 19,000 construction-related jobs lost. Likewise, unemployment in the Victor Valley has increased by 56% during that same time period.
The road to recovery for the Victor Valley housing market has been a rocky one, but there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and it can be found in the City of Hesperia. Once enjoying a thriving economy fueled by home construction in 2005, the City of Hesperia has faced economic challenges resulting in zero new home permits in 2011 and 2012 and the loss of the city’s Redevelopment Agency. However, the City of Hesperia has taken a bold approach of reducing development impact fees to bolster development and economic activity.
This approach was one of many ideas brought to the table on March 19, 2014, as the Building Industry Association, Baldy View Chapter (BIA), partnered with the County of San Bernardino and SANBAG to host a Countywide “Vision in Action” Housing Collaborative Workshop focused on identifying business friendly practices. The cooperative ideas shared during the workshop represent an important first step to ensuring a strong development industry. 80 attendees participated in the unprecedented event which paired representatives from 15 cities and 20 homebuilder companies to have meaningful discussions regarding the best-recommended practices for home development entitlements and permitting.
In attendance was Hesperia’s City Manager, Mike Podegracz, who participated in a discussion panel between city managers and building industry leaders. Mr. Podegracz highlighted the efforts being made by Hesperia including; reduction of development impact fees, interdepartmental training of staff and improved customer service efforts in communication and transparency of processes. The four cities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia and Victorville have also established a partnership to market the Victor Valley as a whole and pool financial resources, thus reducing marketing budgets and saving taxpayer dollars.
Early results for the City of Hesperia’s fee reduction efforts have already been well-received. In 2013, single-familypermit totals increased, albeit modestly, from zero to thirty-five new homes. City staff has also received overwhelming positive feedback on their improved customer service and timely returning of phone calls and messages. During the Countywide Vision workshop, Mr. Podegracz shared the importance of creating a culture within the cities “where there is always room for improvement.”
As the Victor Valley continues to a face a long road to economic recovery, it is refreshing to see the bold leadership efforts on display by the Hesperia City Council. The home building industry has and always will be a cornerstone of Southern California’s economic prosperity. Moving forward, it is our hope to continue the Countywide “Vision in Action” dialogue with San Bernardino County and SANBAG. In the meantime, Victor Valley cities should follow the positive examples set by the City of Hesperia to encourage home building development.