State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and other lawmakers supported a package of bills that seeks to encourage more affordable housing construction in California. Angela Hart The Sacramento Bee
State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and other lawmakers supported a package of bills that seeks to encourage more affordable housing construction in California. Angela Hart The Sacramento Bee

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Capitol Alert

California exodus? Poll finds voters consider moving due to sky-high housing costs

By Angela Hart

ahart@sacbee.com

September 18, 2017 08:00 PM

UPDATED September 19, 2017 03:19 PM

More than half of California voters say the state’s housing affordability crisis is so bad that they’ve considered moving, and 60 percent of the electorate supports rent control, according to a new statewide poll.

The findings from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies reflect broad concerns Californians have over the soaring cost of living. Amid an unprecedented housing shortage, rents have skyrocketed and tenants have faced mass evictions, especially in desirable areas.

“It’s an extremely serious problem,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo. “People are being forced to consider moving because of the rising cost of housing – that’s pretty prevalent all over the state.”

Of the 56 percent of voters who said they’ve considered moving, 1 in 4 said they’d relocate out of state if they did.

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About half of the state’s voters – 48 percent – said they consider the problem of housing affordability “extremely serious.” Concerns are more prevalent in areas seen as ground zero for the crisis, including the Bay Area, where 65 percent of voters described the problem that way.

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The issue has led to an intensifying debate over rent control in California. In Los Angeles County, 68 percent of voters said they support stronger limits on rent increases, while 63 percent in the Bay Area said so.

The majority of support for rent control is among renters, who have seen prices grow nearly 4 percent since last year, according to data compiled by the real estate listing service Apartment List. California’s median rent for a one-bedroom is now at $1,750, while a two-bedroom is $2,110, Apartment List found. Among the most expensive cities are San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento.

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Of the voters who have considered moving, most are renters and fall in the 30 to 39 age group, followed by voters age 18 to 29.

The poll comes as the state Legislature last week sent to Gov. Jerry Brown a broad package of bills aimed at shoring up funding for affordable housing and spurring construction, especially of low-income units.

Leaders of the state Senate and Assembly touted the housing package as the greatest move in a generation to address California’s skyrocketing rents and the historically low production of new homes.

“The Assembly and Senate have made real progress in solving a crisis that has been a shadow on California for years,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in a statement.

'We know that this is just a start,' Assembly speaker says of housing bills

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon discussed legislative passage of a package of housing funding and regulation bills earlier this month.

Alexei Koseff The Sacramento Bee

Missing from the package is a bill from Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, that sought to rescind a state law that for two decades has blocked cities from adopting stronger rent control measures. Bloom put the bill on hold earlier this year, citing political pressure from powerful real estate interests. Meanwhile, local rent control battles are erupting across the state.

“This whole housing package falls dismayingly short of what’s needed to keep tenants from paying an arm and a leg to keep a roof over their head,” said Omar Medina, president of the North Bay Organizing Project based in Santa Rosa, which lost a rent control fight in the city earlier this year.

The Legislature’s housing package includes a bill that, if signed by Brown, will put a $4 billion housing bond before voters next November.

The Berkeley IGS poll shows 51 percent of voters would support a “multibillion-dollar” housing bond. Roughly a quarter – 27 percent – said they would oppose a housing bond and 22 percent were undecided.

Most of the support for the housing bond is among Democrats, with 69 percent saying they’d vote for it.