California’s Affordable Housing Shortage Linked to Over-Population, Over-Immigration

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

November 16, 2017
CA apartment
California leads the nation in having the most severely rent-burdened households,
defined by the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development as families
that spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. According to HUD,
California also has the largest affordable rental home shortage. 

As Sacramento bemoans the affordable housing shortage, passes bills to expedite home construction, and promises to provide billions in funding, at least one Los Angeles resident has connected the crunch to over-immigration.

Responding to Steve Lopez’s Los Angeles Times column titled “As renters struggle to pay bills, landlords and speculators cash in,” a Torrance reader replied:

     “Steve Lopez's column does not adequately address the main driver for increased rents: The population in Southern California has been growing faster than the supply of housing.

     “To alleviate the imbalance, we need to build a lot more housing, slow population growth or both. Increasing rental supply by allowing greater density understandably has met a lot of resistance because people, especially in suburbia, don't want increased crowding and traffic.

     “People moving into California from other states and people leaving for other states is mostly in balance, so that's not increasing population here. The population increase is largely fueled by immigration and the high birth rates of recent arrivals.

     “It seems imperative that we address immigration if we truly want to solve the issue of rapidly increasing rents.”

The reader understates California’s domestic out-of-state migration. The latest Census Bureau data shows that domestic migrants are leaving California more rapidly than they’re arriving.

But on over-immigration’s effect on housing shortages, the reader is spot on. In August, Southern California home prices jumped 7.5 percent from a year earlier. Across the six-county region, the median home price increased to $500,000 from $465,000 a year earlier, and in Los Angeles County, the median price soared 9.4 percent to a record $580,000, breaking the July $575,000 record.

For years, California has been home to more immigrants than any state, currently about 10 million. But as the total immigrant population has risen from year-to-year, the pressure on housing, especially low-cost housing, has increased correspondingly to the unsustainable level it’s now reached.  

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