Community Columns

It's too soon for Tivoli; let the housing market recover

For months now, the tales of woe in the housing market crisis have bombarded us. Vacant and for-sale homes line our streets, with no signs of relief in the near future. Notices of defaults and foreclosures fill pages of The Bee.

Foreclosure auctions and short sales (selling for less than the outstanding mortgage) are causing housing prices to drop, leaving those of us who remain in our homes wondering how long it will be before we'll regain our lost equity, or how long the grass will grow out of control in the vacant home next door.

Knowing that Stanislaus County has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, I find it disturbing to read that Modesto planning commissioners voted 4-3 to approve the Tivoli project. I wonder if they are reading the same newspaper or watching the same TV reports on the housing market as I am.

The proposal calls not only for big-box stores, an elementary school and a park, but also more than 1,300 new homes, 800 condos and duplexes, and 1,000 apartments.

Granted, these proposed homes will not be completed for some time, as stated by the investors, but when hearing that the current market crisis is expected to last for at least another couple of years, I cannot help but ask: Who will buy all these new homes? Considering the market is not expected to bounce back for quite some time, I fear that just as we begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel and finally begin to clear a large inventory of existing homes, the emergence of so many new homes will cause us to backslide.

Maybe I'm too skeptical right now, at a time my home's market value has dropped nearly $100,000. Or, maybe I don't support the massive growth that this city has seen in the past several years as I pass abandoned home construction sites, where developers left behind gutted orchards and unfinished streets, along with signs saying "stay tuned."

I suppose I just can't stomach hearing of new housing proposals when so many people are struggling through one of the toughest economies in recent times.

Granted, more shopping for east area residents is a plus and would bring jobs to the area. And, from the sound of the financial predictions, there still will be many affordable homes on what still will be a flooded market. In a few years, we'll just be coming out of this mess. Owners who might want to sell their homes for reasons other than not being able to make the payment will be crushed back down again if the market is flooded with more than 2,000 new homes.

The Modesto City Council is scheduled to vote on this proposal Feb. 26. I hope it has been paying more attention than the planning commission and will put this plan on a back burner, on low heat, for a while longer.

Vidauri is a Modesto resident. Contact her at columns@modbee.com.

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