Californians, please move if you can – press enterprise
Want to make California a better place?
Then move on.
Any location in the state will do. It would be great if you could move to a city near your own. Better yet: stay in your neighborhood and find a new place nearby.
Why am I asking you to go through the hassle and emotions of leaving one place for another? Because our state, which once prided itself on perpetual motion, is stuck at a standstill.
Californians have never been so mobile as they are today. In the short term, our growing tendency to stay put means our housing market is stuck with too few vacancies. In the long run, our stasis can put us at risk as our climate and economies change.
California’s lack of mobility is a political failure. Our state is built on policies that prioritize staying in place rather than moving. Our Proposition 13 system discourages homeowners and businesses from relocating by keeping their taxes lower the longer they keep their properties. Our governments routinely squander millions of dollars in grants for wealthy California businesses, with the false justification that there is an exodus of jobs and people leaving the state.
This premise is wrong. As Orange County Register columnist Jonathan Lansner tirelessly points out, we Californians have the lowest resident exit rate of any state in the United States. The real problem with California is that it is the worst state for attracting new residents.
You could say that our democracy has become a sustaining ocracy, with our leaders tirelessly dedicated to keeping people where they are.
Californian progressives often oppose real progress because of their desire to help Californians stay where they are. Housing and community activists regularly protest against badly needed new housing because it could replace existing residents. Momentum is building statewide for new rent controls or anti-eviction policies that favor existing tenants over those still looking for a place to live. And then there is the latest extension of the let-them-stay logic: Some Californians argue that closing dangerous homeless camps and urging camp residents to find more stable housing is a “war on. poor people “.
California’s many protections for existing residents may be well-intentioned, but they come at a steep price, and not just property tax cuts for senior homeowners. California’s tendency to solve its problems by keeping people in their existing housing actually exacerbates the housing shortage.
Why? Because fewer people moving creates traffic jams, according to a recent article by USC academics.
Mobility and the vacancies created when people move are essential to a functioning housing market. Each move creates a chain of vacancies, allowing other people to move and find accommodation. For example, a senior who moves to a retirement home puts their house up for sale, which people who have been tenants buy, leaving their old apartment open to another tenant, and so on.
This churn rate is much higher for mobility than new construction. The USC study estimates that over the course of a year, the rotation of the existing housing stock provides more than 14 times more vacant housing, with the possibility of relocation, than those resulting from new construction.
Vacancies are at a premium in California and across the country. In 1985, one in five families moved each year. But now, less than one in ten does. And over the past decade, mobility has slowed down locally, meaning far fewer people are moving around in their own neighborhood or city.
There are several reasons why people stay put. Housing construction came to a halt during the Great Recession, creating a shortage just as large numbers of millennial young adults entered the housing market. With more people seeking less housing, vacancy rates have fallen and have remained low, while rents and housing prices continue to rise. People who want to move often can’t find anything affordable, if anything at all, so they just don’t move.
One obvious response to this predicament is to build a lot more housing, which the state is starting to encourage. But it will take many years to fill the shortage. In the meantime, California should stop subsidizing people to stay at home and devote more energy and money to enabling more Californians to relocate.
It means ending tax cuts and other subsidies that keep seniors in homes they no longer need. (It also means building more homes for seniors who are leaving their homes.) Let’s take the state’s excess funds and the money saved from the end of the Proposition 13 protections, and use them to help more of the population. people move from tenants to buyers with low interest loans and help with down payment. Let us also subsidize both the rent and the moving costs of low-income people so that they have more housing options.
These grants should be reserved exclusively for current Californians. (If someone moves from out of state, they don’t create a chain of vacancies here). Grants should also be more generous for people moving to their own city and county, as such local moves produce longer job chains.
Creating a system that encourages more Californians to relocate could have benefits far beyond current housing needs.
In his new book, “Move: The Forces Uprooting Us”, international relations expert and Director of FutureMap Parag Khanna foresees a future where moves are not a choice but a necessity. Khanna argues that as climate change, political upheaval, economic crises and technological disruption challenge existing communities and structures, we may all need to move to more livable places. This will require governments to have “collective resettlement strategies” for the world’s population.
“We can no longer afford to be passive observers of the unfolding of human geography,” writes Khanna, adding that we should no longer allow ourselves to be stuck in place. After all, “a bewildering part of our personal and professional lives relies on mobility. Society only functions normally if we can move. Once you stop pedaling, a bicycle quickly falls. Our civilization is this bicycle.
Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.