Bay Area to Los Banos? Many taking on longer commute for cheaper housing

Soaring home prices have Los Banos looking to build more affordable, multi-family complexes so more locals won't have to move.

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Friday, March 11, 2022
Bay Area residents find housing hot spot in this Central CA city
Bay Area commuters seeking cheaper housing are flocking to Los Banos as the city works to keep longtime residents as prices soar.

LOS BANOS, Calif. -- Commuters seeking cheaper housing have long been drawn to Los Banos because of its direct access to Highway 152.

"It was an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half from here to Sunnyvale," says Larry Vieyra.

Vieyra moved here five years ago. He wanted a nice home with room to relax - away from the pricey Bay Area.

"You couldn't touch a home like this for no less than $2 million," he said.

VIDEO: Bay Area's great migration is creating a 'Megaregion' as residents move out, not away

The boundaries of the Bay Area are expanding as people move to outlying areas, the result is, a "megaregion" that encompasses Fresno and Sacramento.

Another new neighborhood was going up across the street. Over 400 permits were approved last year to try to keep pace with the city's explosive growth.

Aerial views show not only new construction but additional space where more homes can be built in the future.

Los Banos Mayor Tom Faria says the median sales price of a home is up to $425,000 -- too high for many who grew up here but a deal for people moving in from out of town.

"San Jose, Santa Clara, the entire Silicon Valley, so it's 85-90 miles," he said.

Faria says over 60% of the Los Banos workforce commutes to Fresno and Stanislaus counties but even more to the Bay Area.

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"People can't afford a house there, so they move here and then of course, that puts pressure on this housing market," he said. "But these wages won't support those prices and then these people are forced to move."

Residents priced out of the market have been moving to cities like Chowchilla.

"You really need a two-income family to be able to survive," says Senior Planner Stacy Souza Elms.

Elms says the city's rapid growth won't end anytime soon.

"In the next decade, we'll probably have about 75,000 in population," she said.

VIDEO: Experts explain what's behind California's historic drop in population

In 2020, a year dominated by the pandemic, California's population fell by 182,083. It's the first time in California's recorded history, that the state's year-over-year population dropped.

Soaring home prices have the city looking to build more affordable, multi-family complexes so more locals won't have to move.

It is a delicate balance.

"We want to keep this identity," Faria said. "This identity of it's a small town."

Faria adds Los Banos used to have a sign that said, "Where East comes West to stay."

Now, it appears West is coming East to stay.

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