By Daniel Borsuk
A housing boom in the single family and multi-family residential construction sectors will jump start Contra Costa County’s economy in the post-COVID 19 era, economist Dr. Christopher Thornberg told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors during their retreat on Tuesday.
“Housing, housing, housing is the wave of the future for Contra Costa County,” Dr. Thornberg of Beacon Economics said during a two-hour remote presentation entitled “The Post-Covid New World Order: It’s a seller’s market for now.”
In 2021, Contra Costa County outpaced other Bay Area counties especially San Francisco and Alameda counties in issuing single family and multi-family residential permits, the economist said. Housing construction serves as an economic sparkplug for the local economy – stores and services, especially public schools.
From this increased economic activity, the county will draw increased sales tax revenue particularly from the newly voter approved Measure X sales tax measure. County officials estimate Measure X will pump in $170 million of additional revenue for county health and social programs for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Contra Costa County had issued 1,687 permits in 2021 for single family residential units, an increase of 466 permits from 2019 and 1,336 permits for multi-family residential units, an increase of 580 units from 2019, based on statistics that Dr. Thornberg showed.
In the meantime, San Francisco City and County issued only 86 single-family housing permits in 2021, an increase of only nine permits from 2020, and 2,075 multi-family residential unit permits in 2021, a decrease of 552 permits, from 2020.
Residential construction in Alameda County was down in both categories. Single family was declined 41 permits with 1,241 permits issued overall in 2021. Multi-family residential construction was also down 126 units to 2,953 units multi-family residential unit permits overall.
“Offices are going to take a beating in the suburbs,” the economist forecast. More people are working from home, and it appears this remote trend is here to stay for a while, he said.
In San Francisco’s Financial District, where it is nearly deserted because of the pandemic, there are office buildings that are practically empty of workers, Thornberg said. He said it would be very costly to convert unused office buildings into residential buildings in the city.
79.8 Percent Fully Vaccinated
Meanwhile, Contra Costa County Health Services Director Anna Roth reported that 79.8 percent of the county’s population is fully vaccinated.
“Mask-wearing has become a priority and wearing cloth masks are not that protective,” said Roth
Even then there has been a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the county Deputy Health Officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli said with 281 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or the Omicron variant.
Supervisors also learned the county on average administers 12,000 COVID-19 tests daily.
Nino Recommends Postponing $59 Million of American Rescue Plan Funds
Supervisors also, on the recommendation of County Administrator Monica Nino, voted 5-0 to postpone the acceptance of $59 million of the second-year allocation of American Rescue Plan funds “until the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and related impacts on Contra Costa County is better understood in January 2023,” she stated.
In the meantime, some $53 million in year two American Rescue Plan funds be accept by the county.
Nino had cited bureaucratic red-tape issues both at the state and federal levels for temporarily halting portions of the federal funds used for rental assistance, employment assistance and other federal government subsidy programs developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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