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CityBeat this week sheds some light on the apologetic Arizona official who decided he didn’t want to take the job of fire chief for the city of Chula Vista.

The paper says that Tucson’s Jeff Piechura wasn’t expressly turned off by Chula Vista’s chaotic government. Rather, it was a matter of personal finances:

What could possibly have prompted Piechura to turn tail and run from beautiful Chula Vista so quickly? In an interview with CityBeat, he gave the answer: It was one good look at the realities of today’s real-estate market.

“There were two factors: plummeting house values, both in the Tucson area and in San Diego, and the ability to get a mortgage,” he says. “We have a nice house with acreage here and wouldn’t be able to sell that for at least two years in order for it to be a benefit. On the other side is acquiring a home [in San Diego County]. Lending requirements have obviously changed, so we’d be required to put a larger amount down and cover financing for an unknown devaluation factor. Trying to get a second mortgage would almost be impossible.”

There are many ironies in today’s housing market. This is one of them. It wasn’t too long ago when local government and business leaders were bemoaning the high home prices in San Diego as a significant threat to their ability to attract and recruit talented workers. Now, housing prices are plummeting and that is keeping talented workers away.

Crazy, I know.

Today, on Tom Fudge’s “These Days” Stephen Whitburn was debating Todd Gloria as they finish the last leg of their race to represent District 3 on the City Council.

Whitburn has been simultaneously arguing that we should be collectively trying to protect the prices of homes at their lofty levels and that we should be providing more affordable housing.

On his site, he laments:

And for the financially well-off few, homeownership comes at a huge price — unattainable by most District 3 residents. As of May, 2007, the median-price for a single-family, detached home in San Diego was $612,370.

He needs to update that. The median home price is now at $328,000 and falling. It’ll keep falling unless he and his colleagues achieve the goal of “protecting neighborhood property values.”

Our leaders need to face reality at some point: If they want home prices to become more affordable, this, very simply, means they want home prices to go down. If they want neighborhoods to maintain their property values, they do not want homes to become more affordable.

It isn’t just Whitburn. This is a national obsession. Housing was, indeed, hugely unaffordable in many places. That is now changing.

Rather than exhale with relief we seem to be doing all we can to stop it.

SCOTT LEWIS

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