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County looks ahead with economic, housing initiatives
Living wage in StanCo estimated at $27/hr
housing
The rate of housing development in the county has shrunk over the last two decades, with the number of housing units developed shrinking from 4,500 to just 80 from 2004 to 2019 (Journal file photo).

Stanislaus County is hoping to improve the quality of life for residents through initiatives which take a long-term approach to addressing its economic issues.

During a presentation to the Turlock City Council on Tuesday, Stanislaus County CEO Jody Hayes explained how collaboration between the area’s nine incorporated cities could make a difference when it comes to job creation, the housing crisis and economic development. The two initiatives spearheaded by the County are called Stanislaus 2030 and Housing Stanislaus.

“The basic concept is that every member of our community can work a normal occupation in Stanislaus County and afford to live in a safe neighborhood,” Hayes said. “That’s what it really all comes down to. That’s the fabric of any great community, and that’s what we’re trying to make sure that we lend our support to and work collaboratively with everyone we can here in our community.”

Stanislaus Community Foundation CEO Marian Kaanon told the Council that the Stanislaus 2030 initiative commissioned the Brookings Institution to study the county’s current economic conditions. Though the results of the report won’t be published until later this month, the information is meant to help the initiative — and its collaborating entities — develop a strategy and implementation plan for the county by this summer. 

Kaanon did share that the study found over half of the county’s population struggles to make ends meet, suggesting that much of the county’s job base doesn’t provide opportunities for residents to meet a basic level of self-sufficiency. Additionally, just one-third of the county’s jobs provide pathways to prosperity and Stanislaus County is behind other regions when it comes to successful female- and minority-owned businesses. 

“It’s substantive and it’s sobering,” Kaanon said of the Brookings report. “I will tell you, they do not paint a rosy picture of what’s currently happening.”

According to 2019 data presented by Kaanon, 39 percent of Stanislaus County’s population belongs to a struggling working family, compared to 47 percent who come from self-sufficient families and 15 percent from struggling non-working families. Approximately 54 percent of those who come from struggling working families are children, while 41 percent of those who come from struggling non-working families are seniors. 

In data from 2020, Kaanon shared that just 13 percent of jobs in Stanislaus County are considered “good” jobs, meaning they provide a self-sufficient wage of about $27 per hour, benefits and more. Around 22 percent of jobs in the county are considered “promising,” while the remaining 65 percent are classified as “other.”

There is a 40,000-job gap between “other” and “good” jobs that the county hopes to address through the Stanislaus 2030 initiative, Kaanon said.

“It’s not just about job count…In Turlock, I want you to ask about the quality of jobs and the actual wages that those jobs will be paying,” Kaanon said. “We are woefully lacking across the county – and we’re not the only county in the Central Valley struggling with this – with wages that actually pay a living wage.”

The county is lacking in housing as well, as made evident by the Stanislaus Housing presentation also given on Tuesday. While Hayes informed the Council that Stanislaus County is not trying to tell cities where and when they can build new homes, they wanted to develop a plan which focuses on addressing the upper rungs of housing insecurity rather than just homelessness. 

Housing Stanislaus is meant to alleviate issues with affordable housing, rental housing and home ownership in Stanislaus County. According to Alan Lange of Valley Vision, the county is expected to grow 10 percent by 2030 — despite a decrease in affordable housing availability. 

The rate of housing development in the county has shrunk over the last two decades, he added, with the number of housing units developed shrinking from 4,500 to just 80 from 2004 to 2019. 

As the investment plan for the county’s economy, Stanislaus 2030, is released this summer, the county also plans on holding a housing summit to develop official strategies for Housing Stanislaus. For more information, visit https://www.stanislaus2030.com/