By Joshua Molina Originally Appeared in The Pacific Coast Business Times

Some of the region’s most prominent housing experts converged in downtown Santa Barbara on May 19 for an all-day conference hosted by the Coastal Housing Coalition.

In the morning’s keynote speech, Matthew Fienup, executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, said the high cost of housing is driven by a lack of development, and policy makers must consider all options to escape the region’s housing costs.

“People are leaving Ventura County to seek economic opportunity,” Fienup said. “It’s very difficult for the workforce to make a go.”

Slow-growth policies in the Tri-Counties, Fienup said, have created a scarcity of housing. In areas that are developable, the housing costs are high, but land where development is not allowed drops in value. He said Ventura’s SOAR initiative, Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources, has made housing less reachable and affordable.

He said 55,000 people who live in Ventura County drive at least 45 minutes to get to work; another 11,000 commute for at least 90 minutes to get to work.

Fienup said policy makers need to give developers economic incentives to develop.

“Fundamental change is still possible,” he said.

Also today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, announced that NeighborWorks America, a public nonprofit established by Congress, awarded a $415,333 grant to the Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. to create more affordable housing in Ventura.