1 in 5 Californians is Poor. Housing Prices Are to Blame
By Nick Fouriezos
In the Netflix television show Altered Carbon, the fears of rampant income inequality are fully realized. High society is taken literally, as the rich and wealthy live in a cloud city in the sky. The series is set hundreds of years in the future, and yet it tellingly takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area, with leaders who muse about making themselves immortal and are obsessed with the propagation of their own compounding wealth . . .
Yet that prosperity clearly isn’t trickling down, despite the best efforts of lawmakers, who have used cash assistance, vendor and other welfare programs to pump almost $958 billion into the state’s poverty issue from 1992-2015, as Kerry Jackson of the “free market” Pacific Research Institute think tank noted in a January editorial. A living wage in California would need to be about $25 per hour, says Rebecca Brown, CEO of Boston-based Equity Focus Consulting, who previously worked on poverty issues in Oakland. But economists fear raising wages would lead to even fewer job opportunities. The state’s median wage was $19.67 per hour as of May 2016, according to federal wages statistics compiled by governing.com.
The biggest contributor to California’s dismal ranking is its high housing prices, notes Joel Kotkin, a demographer at Chapman University in Southern California’s Orange County. The public clamors for houses next to public transportation while large swaths of the state go underdeveloped. Extensive regulations lead to skyrocketing construction costs, which in turn raise the roof on home prices.