They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Apparently, this is true of Californians, as well: If they happen to be in Vegas, there’s a good chance they’re going to be staying there.
California has a leakage problem. Not only are businesses leaving the state in waves, people are quitting in large numbers, too. The middle class is pouring out, productive workers are seeking better lives elsewhere, and those who have found the California dream too expensive to pursue are realizing they can actually reach their goals in other states.
The force driving the human flight is California’s high cost of living. As Steve Lopez wrote in a column earlier this month, “California, the place where anything was possible, has become the place where nothing is affordable.”
Among the preferred havens for refugees is a boom town only about four hours away by moving van.
“Las Vegas is one of the most popular destinations for those who leave California. It’s close, it’s a job center, and the cost of living is much cheaper, with plenty of brand-new houses going for between $200,000 and $300,000,” Lopez wrote in his story under the headline: “They’re leaving California for Las Vegas to find the middle-class life that eluded them.”
The biggest financial headache in this state, and probably the highest hurdle to finding that middle-class life that’s more easily attainable in Las Vegas, is the housing migraine. The portion of California households that can afford a median-price home is smaller than one in three, the California Realtors Association reported. Already steep, and climbing still, prices can in some cases lead to ruin for those struggling to pay for even a modest home.
It is a crisis burning so red hot that nine of the least-affordable large housing markets in the country are in California. The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index ranks the greater Los Angeles area as the most unaffordable in the country, metropolitan San Francisco the second-least affordable and Anaheim third.
Smaller markets are in a similar jam. The same index found that eight of the most unaffordable housing markets in metropolitan areas with populations under 500,000 residents are also California cities.
Many who haven’t yet left in search of more reasonably priced housing eventually will. A poll conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California Berkeley found that 56 percent of voters have considered moving due to the high cost of housing, and one in four indicated they would leave California to find it.
Then there is California’s traffic trouble. Inrix, a transportation analytics firm, says that Los Angeles has the most congested roads in the world; San Francisco has the fourth worst traffic on Earth and third worst in the country.
But even movement doesn’t bring relief. When drivers aren’t staring at the immovable object in front to them, they are bucking across rough roads and mangling their cars on them. The Road Information Program says that congestion combined with poorly maintained roads that cause wrecks and damage cars costs Californians about $25 billion a year.
Finally, many who have left — and many who will eventually leave — did so because they’ve had their fill of blue state politics: high taxes, heavy regulations, hostility toward business, political correctness, the virtue-signaling “resist” movement, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s insistence that Republicans who don’t agree with her should leave the state
Of course, it’s the blue state model that created the other conditions that are chasing businesses and people away.
The housing crisis was produced by policies that increase the cost of building and draw out the construction process. Meanwhile, new affordable housing mandates have backfired, while lawmakers push rent control laws that will reduce housing stock.
California’s transportation ills were produced in the same way. Rather than repair mangled highways and increase their capacity so traffic can flow faster, policymakers have fixated on high-speed rail, schemed to hustle drivers into public transit, and forced housing developments around rail stations.
By comparison, Las Vegas is still the wild frontier, where those who want to produce and thrive face fewer obstructions. At one time, California was such a place. It could be again if policymakers could ever remember what made the state work during its better days.