Between 1850 and 1860, California’s population grew by 410 percent – a rapid expansion fueled by the Gold Rush.
The rush today, though, is more outbound than inbound.
From 2007 to 2016, 6 million people left the state while only 5 million moved in. One could argue that with a population of nearly 40 million, a deficit of 1 million over a decade isn’t terribly consequential. One could also argue that losing 1 million is just a start. A recent poll found that 46 percent of Bay Area residents said they are likely to leave the region within the next few years. Only 24 percent of those who want to leave wish to stay in California.
Clearly there is something rotten in San Francisco. Only 25 percent told EMC Research, which polled for the Bay Area Council, that the metro region was headed in the right direction. Fifty-five percent said it is on the “wrong track.”
As recently as 2015, the numbers were almost exactly the reverse: 55 percent said the Bay Area was headed in the right direction, and 28 percent said it was on the wrong track.
So, what has changed?
Several things, it seems. Today, 42 percent said “housing/housing costs/housing availability” is “the most important problem facing the Bay Area today.” In 2015, only 18 percent felt that way.
Other significant trouble spots according to the respondents include “traffic/congestion,” “poverty/homelessness,” and “cost of living.”
This impulse to escape California’s housing crisis is not unique to Bay Area residents. A University of California-Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll taken late last summer found that due to the rising costs of housing, 56 percent across the state have considered moving, “with one in four saying that if they did decide to move, they would most likely relocate out of state.”
In a more recent poll, 700 local business leaders told the Los Angeles County Business Federation the housing crisis and homelessness are “a growing concern” throughout Los Angeles County.
While taxes and fees are still at the top of the list of their biggest headaches, housing and the homeless problem have “moved from low-level concerns in 2017 to among highest priorities of the business community in this year’s poll.”
“The housing crisis affects all sectors and all people in Los Angeles County,” said Greg McWilliams, chief policy officer of FivePoint Communities, a member of the Los Angeles County Business Federation.
“What’s important to note is that taxes and fees halt development, resulting in less housing, business stagnation, higher rents, and higher rates of poverty.”
One wonders if those who cite housing and other cost-of-living hardships as reasons to flee are making the connection between those conditions and California’s one-party rule.
In the four decades Democrats have ruled Sacramento, we’ve seen the development of a housing crisis perpetuated by lousy public policy and a reluctance to enact helpful changes; a regulatory regime and tax structure that is venomous toward business; a political and cultural division that threatens to tear the state into multiple parts; and a widespread sense that the state is heading in the wrong direction.
How can this Blue State stranglehold be broken? It won’t be torn loose by a Republican wave. GOP candidate John Cox might make the governor’s race competitive this fall, but the party is either presumed “dead” or an “afterthought” in California.
California needs candidates who will run pro-growth, pro-freedom, solution-oriented campaigns, regardless of party. Registered voters who have no party preference are now the second-largest electorate group in the state, trailing only registered Democrats. These voters will make a difference in November whether or not those who are focused on making changes in Sacramento – the new breed of office-seekers that we need to cultivate – are elected.