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UCLA Anderson forecast offers solution to unaffordable housing in Southern California

The latest UCLA Anderson Forecast predicts modest employment growth for California through 2019, but it also proposes an interesting idea.

The issue of housing affordability is certainly nothing new. It’s a well-known fact that high home prices have excluded many would-be buyers from purchasing a home, and it has also discouraged others from moving to California.

But what about targeted affordability?

If having teachers live in the community where they teach is deemed to be important, then a government/teacher, equity-sharing plan might be efficient, the report said. A school district, for example, could purchase a percentage of a home and the teacher would pay the balance. The two would share in the appreciation of the house and the district would be able to attract quality teachers to the classroom.

The forecast notes that churches have engaged in a similar practice for years. It’s relatively common for a church to buy a rectory or parish house as a residence for a priest or pastor to keep them in the community of their parishioners. The sticking point in California’s overall economy would be deciding who the privileged groups are.

“This would really be a political decision,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast who compiled the California portion of the report. “You could also see this being use for police, firefighters — or even artists. There are no economics behind it. It just comes down to what you want your community to look like.”

Jordan Levine, a senior economist with the California Association of Realtors, agreed with the Anderson report that the concept isn’t exactly new.

“There are all kinds of programs out there that provide down payments on homes for employees when businesses are trying to attract them in the face of rising home prices,” he said. “It’s not unprecedented to find a way to make an attractive offer for employees. But that being said, these programs are all reacting to the bigger problem of our lack of supply. We have a huge imbalance, and programs like this help those who are lucky enough to access them … but it would be nicer to address the lack of supply head-on for everyone who lives in Southern California.”

The report notes that home prices in California are higher, in part, because California is deemed a great place to live, with warm weather, sunny beaches and other amenities.Prices here have been rising much faster than in other parts of the country where demand is siginficantly lower.

Recent figures from CoreLogic shows that median home prices throughout Southern California are indeed high. Some homes in Burbank were selling for more than $1 million in August, for example, while other homes were nearly as pricey in Pasadena ($940,000), Irvine ($900,000) and Long Beach ($870,000).

Supply remains a problem. Bill Holman, vice president of land development for Christopher Homes and for Rosedale Land Partners, the master developer of the 1,250-home Rosedale community in Azusa, said builders are caught in a regulatory bind.

“The approval process can take years to get through, so a real estate cycle could have come and gone by the time you get your master plan approved,” Holman said earlier this year.

The Anderson forecast predicts that California employment will grow by 1.1 percent this year, 0.9 percent next year and 0.9 percent in 2019. Job gains have been widespread over the past 12 months in construction, education, healthcare and social services, and leisure and hospitality. But the mining, logging and non-durable goods manufacturing sectors continued to shed jobs.

Recent figures from the state Employment Development Department show that California added 265,100 jobs year-over-year in August.

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