The long-awaited recovery of California’s housing markets is welcome news. But it’s also time to reconsider that exorbitant housing costs are arguably the Golden State’s principal economic shortcoming.
Out of Reach by the National Low Income Housing Coalition compares and contrasts on a state-by-state basis “the gap between wages and rents across the country.” Unfortunately, California compares quite unfavorably with most states (and Texas in particular).
The collapse of the housing market in the wake of the Great Recession drove up the demand for rental units. According to the U.S. Census, in 2011, over one third of American households were renters. The nation’s rental vacancy rate dropped from 8% directly at the beginning of the recession to 4.5% by the third quarter of 2012. The, so far, inadequate investment in new affordable housing units coupled with the fact that nearly a third of renter households live in poverty has created a severe affordability problem.
The map above indicates the number of hours of minimum wage work would be needed to pay rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment. As you can see, California ranks as nearly the least affordable state, behind only Hawaii, Maryland/D.C., New York, and New Jersey. California is also notably less affordable than Texas, which largely explains the migration of middle and low-income households to the Longhorn State.
The map below estimates the full-time hourly wage that a household must earn to afford a decent apartment at the HUD estimated Fair Market Rent (FMR), while spending no more than 30% of income on housing costs.