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CCRE Presents: A Turning Point for California Real Estate

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Presented July 1, 2021

Watch an exciting discussion forecasting the future of work and home and exploring how current market impacts will shape the state’s long-anticipated recovery. Panelists shared insights about the possibilities for the reinvention of real estate options at home and work and examined policies, data, and solutions that could propel a seismic change to make lessons from the past year a real turning point for California real estate. 


Moderated by Dave Walsh, C.A.R. President

Dave Walsh


Jason Ward
Jason Ward
Associate Economist/Associate Director
RAND Center for Housing and Homelessness in Los Angeles
Sara Kimberlin
Sara Kimberlin 
Senior Policy Analyst
California Budget & Policy Center
Kevin Klowden
Kevin Klowden
Executive Director
Milken Institute


Due to technical difficulties during the recording, the above video has been edited to eliminate audio glitches. We regret that several minutes of the recording were unintelligible and had to be cut but we're presenting as much of the conversation as possible.



Lessons for Policymakers Post-Pandemic:

  • Housing affordability and broadband access are two key trends that are shaping how people are adapting to the world we live in now and policymakers must prioritize both because there is a divide between those who can work remote and those who cannot; particularly service workers
  • Dramatic responses to addressing homelessness were monumental policy changes during the pandemic and represented one of the biggest moves to rapidly house people; policymakers should realize we can do large things quickly if urgency is prioritized
  •  There was also greater attention about how the economic burden was truly carried during the pandemic and policymakers had a better understanding that low-income Californians were most impacted by housing prices and suffered greatest job losses; long term structural affordability challenges should be addressed so that housing is affordable to all income levels so that communities are economically inclusive and diverse
  • Policymakers should recognize that there was a disproportionate burden placed on women due to lack of childcare resources and decrease in workforce participation; women faced greater challenges and flexibility for women is necessary to ensure they can fully participate economically; building back childcare infrastructure is critical and state should prioritize these investments
  • Target policy decisions to help families meet basic needs since lower and middle class Californians have seen their wages stay flat while housing costs have increased greatly
  • Returning to normal is not so easy when people have fundamentally changed their lifestyles; including relocating away from job centers in order to have greater access to housing options
  • Demand combined with low interest rates and available capital have significantly altered the affordability of housing in the state
  • Still unclear about how employers will meet employee demand and even what employees will ultimately want as things continue to improve

  • Around 30% of workforce can work from home but the workforce is in a period where it has leverage due to the competitive job market; many workers have reevaluated the work they want to do with lots of job changes

Adaptation of the Housing Market to the Current Times:

  • Potential for California to have satellite centers in the Central Valley and other less populated regions so that resources can be driven to areas that could be more affordable to middle class Californians; issue is can we build at a price point that is actually affordable to both local wages and newcomers to regions
  • Innovation around housing has concentrated on affordability and cities have been proactive in streamlining development and those policies will continue to be important for encouraging different building models (ADUs, shared housing, micro-units )
  • We need to continue to think of housing as Infrastructure: there are opportunities to put large-scale investments in a way that increases affordability with scalability in mind
  • As state reopens, the trend we will see is low-income people will continue to leave the state, which is an existing trend; middle class families will also leave if they cannot find the house they want. But we will ultimately see these outward migration numbers decrease as the state more fully reopens

Sustainability of current housing market with all-time high prices:

  • One-time eruption of demand may stem from great deal of homeowner equity that has built up dramatically over the last year
  • Prices and market pressures have been driven by buyers looking for real estate at a level that is higher than typical, including for second homes
  • Climate change and fires have made people rethink where they want to live
  • Interest rates and Fed’s measure of inflation have not tracked with reality of high housing prices and interest rate change in months ahead may have an impact on how people view the market
  • Essential workers and children of current homeowners will be locked out of the market for the foreseeable future if there is not a change in supply and affordability
  • If supply does not increase greatly, price alleviation is not in store for the state
  • Workers’ wages must also match prices to help ensure that a buyer’s resources can meet the cost of housing; this can include child care support, education, renter credits, etc. to ensure access
  • Is California in a bubble? Greatly inflated prices is temporary for some places; not a real bubble if we have such a shortage of supply

State budget and inequities revealed by the pandemic:

  • Broadband access must be improved in the state to address inequities; we must invest in the necessary broadband infrastructure to make sure that Californians of all incomes can access high-speed internet so that communities handicapped by work limitations related to geography can be overcome
  • Unstably housed people – particularly in Southern California – who had to live in overcrowded conditions faced major challenges and educational inequities since remote learning was more difficult
  • An equitable recovery is important for low-income Californians and racial equity is a key factor, as black and Latino Californians were least likely to be a homeowner and were more likely to be burdened by greater housing costs in proportion to their wages

Population Decline in California:

  • It’s still unclear if this is a blip or will be an ongoing trend; could be a silver lining but it also matters what the income levels of are when it comes to who is leaving and entering the state
  • Businesses may also decide to leave in greater numbers if employees cannot find affordable housing
  • Being an immigrant state has allowed California to attract a diverse array of people of all income levels but the catch is Trump era restrictions and COVID made immigration dependency a more vulnerable point of California’s dynamics; foreign students are missing in the state’s residents due to COVID.
  • More low and middle income Californians were the ones to leave the state in greater numbers based on recent data
  • It’s up to state leaders and voters to decide what we want the state to look like as we enter a period of new normal; will we be welcoming and affordable for all income levels?

Conversion of Commercial Real Estate to Residential:

  • Jury is still out on whether this will be a feasible approach to alleviate the housing crisis; sufficiently robust incentives to streamline these conversions could encourage developers; ultimately we don’t know how much office space will go unused as companies still grapple with how many workers remain remote
  • Addressing traditional barriers around zoning and adaptive reuse ordinances will be key for giving developers a reason to deal with the uncertainty of taking on a commercial conversion
  • Mixed use properties are being turned into more housing but unclear if there is enough to meet demand



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