You can’t go a week without another report of businesses and people leaving California because of the high cost of housing. Today it’s the Wall Street Journal’s turn, in a story headlined, “California Has the Jobs but Not Enough Homes.” The problem — a self-inflicted problem if there ever was one — is that the hot economy is creating jobs, but developers can’t build enough affordable living space. The WSJ reports that “companies are expanding outside the state or moving outright as an affordable-housing crisis casts a shadow on the booming economy.”
For employers, “we’re at a crisis stage,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, an association of executives. Companies are struggling to recruit or promote from within as people turn down offers to come to California, Mr. Lapsley said. And with the types of jobs being taken out of the state, he added, “we’re not growing the strong middle class that we used to.”
Karen Holian, 44 years old, joined the startup Lottery.com when it was founded here in 2015. Though a San Francisco native, Ms. Holian, a marketing manager, was excited when the company last year moved to Austin, Texas, because she could finally plan to buy a home.
“In San Francisco, that never seemed like a possibility,” she said. A mother of two, she is for now renting a four-bedroom house for $2,000 a month, a third of what a comparable place costs in her hometown.
California generally, but San Francisco and the wider Bay Area in particular, have waged a decades-long War on Affordable Housing. There have been several justifications for this, some couched in nice-sounding language, some left unsaid. I’ll let you decide which is which:
• To protect the environment
• “City planning”
• To protect the haves from the have-nots
• Opportunities for graft and corruption
• Control, control, control
I might have missed one or two, including “squeeze the middle class out of existence.” Because the end result, no matter which justification was used at any given moment, has been the virtual feudalization of California life. If you’ve made it, if you’re in the top 15 or 25 percent of California earners, then you’re set. You get to live on some of the world’s most beautiful real estate, and enjoy a perfect Mediterranean climate — but what you really enjoy is all the unofficial legal and economic protections from the riffraff. Your position at the top is secure, as the middle class flees rather than compete, and the proles are kept in a state of permanent dependency.
I’m not exaggerating the extent of dependency in the Once Golden State, whether it’s government largess or some kind of housing or transportation benefits from their employer. California, with its impressively high incomes, is home to one in nine Americans yet also to one-third of America’s welfare cases. And with companies like Facebook and Google forced to provide living space or transportation to their employees, California seems to be on the verge of bringing back the company town. Tent cities are already a permanent feature, and have been for some time.
There aren’t any surprises in today’s Wall Street Journal report, just a sad confirmation of what has long been known. I saw the writing on the wall 25 years ago, and left California for Colorado, despite six years of great times with amazing friends. Over the years enough Californians followed me here, permanently altering my new home’s once libertarian-leaning politics.
The question is, what are you going to do when they start fleeing to your state?