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Let’s turn it over to Conor Dougherty, a reporter based in the Bay Area, for today’s introduction.
California is crazy expensive. But should it be?
The Upshot recently took a look at how much housing costs in various cities in the United States in relation to how much economists think it should cost. Not surprisingly, coastal California tops the list of the country’s most overpriced places.
As the chart shows, the worst discrepancy is the San Francisco metropolitan area, where a standard house should cost about $300,000 — but in reality is more like $800,000 (based on 2013 figures). Next comes cities and counties in coastal Southern California — basically a band of overpriced housing that stretches downward from Ventura to the San Diego border.
Inland cities like Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside are all much cheaper, which is why many Californians have moved eastward.
The research behind the story comes from a pair of economists who tried to figure out how much of a home’s cost comes from land-use regulation. The paper argues that most of the difference is caused by regulatory hurdles like design and environmental reviews that can add years to a project’s timeline and suppress the overall housing supply. The result is overpayment on a grand scale for the few homes that do get built. Their figures are theoretical, and people are sure to disagree with them.
The broader point — which isn’t remotely controversial — is that California cities have some of the most restrictive building laws in the nation, and this is a big reason why the state’s per capita home supply is 49th out of 50 states, and why it costs so much to live here.
Now, to remind you, these are metro area figures. So even if San Francisco, Los Angeles and their surrounding cities started a surge in building, that doesn’t mean that homes in the most sought-after places like the Mission District or Santa Monica will ever be close to affordable.
The research suggests the bigger problem…