Housing in California costs 2.5 times the national average, causing not only resident displacement, but also potentially impacting economic growth for the state, according to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
Finding solutions for affordable housing was the focus of "The Cost of Not Housing" summit held by SCAG Tuesday morning in Downtown Los Angeles. Through a series of panels, the summit examined the root causes of the housing crisis in order to find actionable strategies.
"Affordability breaks down into two parts – income and mortgage payment or rent," said Raphael Bostic, a professor from USC's Price School of Public Policy. "While income has not increased, rent has raised nearly 30 percent."
Rising rents are gradually driving current and potential residents out of popular housing districts.
"Many workers are forced out of California," said Brian Uhler, an analyst from the California Legislative Analyst's Office. "And people are not even coming to California anymore because of the high cost of housing."
Ben Metcalf from the California Department of Housing & Community Development suggested that the shortage of affordable housing resulted from not having built enough housing historically, and the consequences have been emerging in recent decades.
Raphael proposed that people should not pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent, but in major cities in the US, most residents' rent surpasses one-third of their income. In California, very low-income families spend over half of their income on housing.
There are many state-funded programs focused on housing affordability, but Uhler pointed out that to make these programs work effectively, the funding has to be consistent.
"Many local governments are not receiving stable funding from the state, which makes them less motivated to implement housing programs," said Uhler. But he agreed with Metcalf that these programs have been well received and the government is making progress.
Affordable housing also has impact on many other relevant social issues, such as health and public education, according to the panelists. For instance, health is driven by many other external factors including a person's housing situation, as Bostic explained.
However, Al Melone, a candidate for Costa Mesa City Council, suggested that affordable housing may negatively affect the economy. "No developer is going to enter into a project that will result in red ink."
Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University Gary M. Galles also expressed concerns regarding ballot measures to raise money for affordable housing through taxation. "It's an unfair burden for those who didn't cause the problem but have to pay tax," he said.
The summit ended on a hopeful note with panelist Alan Greenlee's words that affordable housing has struck the public consciousness in an unprecedented way.