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Million-dollar price tags pose as a obstacle to CPP students

By Gwen Soriano, Oct. 10, 2023

On top of paying off student loans or finding a stable career, Cal Poly Pomona students are now faced with the large issue of housing affordability.

This year, average housing costs in California have reached close to $750,000, reported by real estate sites. According to Zillow, even the in-state median rental market is closing in on $3,000 and steadily increased since last year.

The upcoming generation of Californian homeowners faces the struggle of establishing their foothold in the door, figuratively and literally, given the challenges of affordability and availability of in-state housing.

When economics student Ethan Majid was asked on the probability of a college graduate finding ease in America’s current real estate market, he discouraged the idea.

“On top of the housing cost increase, most graduates will probably leave college with student loan debt and the job market is not the best right now,” said Majid. “I just don’t think it’s realistic.”

Heavily-populated cities in California with a demand for living, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego, have more than half of its listed homes now surpassing $1 million. Economics Lecturer Edmond Wu touched on this topic and the harsh reality of seeking home ownership as a young adult in California.

“It’s going to be very difficult for younger people who want to live in the denser areas of California because that just means you’d have to make more money,” said Wu. “Yet, even if you have the money, there is just not enough available in-state housing as it is. It’s really challenging.”

Although there has been a post-pandemic increase in home building, many sections of California are undergoing challenges in solving this issue. Besides the cost of building new housing, some of these reasons include restrictive zoning laws and neighborhood resistance rooting from income inequality.

For years, in-state legislative action has advocated for single-family housing and normalized this concept. Even though California residents have seen progress since the Senate revised zoning laws to allow more multifamily housing, rates of getting these housing complexes approved have been low.

Finance, real estate and law assistant Professor Anthony Orlando linked this issue with the implicit prejudice many Americans hold against multifamily real estate.

“A lot of these rules that we put in place are really just there because people don’t want more neighbors. That’s the unfortunate truth,” said Orlando. “They want to live in single-family homes in neighborhoods that only have other single-family homes. They don’t want apartment buildings, and they definitely don’t want affordable apartment buildings with low-income residents.”

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Not only is the in-state overpopulation affecting this crisis, but building housing along the coast is also made to be extremely difficult.

“California has very limited land and we can only build in the areas that we’ve already built upon,” said Wu. “If you look at the topography of California, most of it is mountain ranges and desert areas. We also have limitations in terms of water and septic access in a lot of these areas.”

Although there are institutions built to assist those who experience difficulty in finding housing, such as The Housing Choice Voucher program implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it falls short in funding and relies on flawed systems, such as lotteries and waitlists. Even in the case of citizens who do receive a voucher, U.S. landlords hold the power to reject them.

Many California residents believe local lawmakers need to push for proper funding and endorsement, including Orlando.

“Even in a society where we’d build more housing, there’s still going to be a portion of the population that doesn’t earn as much as the richest people in society,” said Orlando. “We live in a country with a lot of inequality and until that disappears, we have to build housing with lower rent rates. We have to implement state and local policies that encourage more construction and we have to make sure that housing choice vouchers are available to everybody who needs them.”

For the upcoming generation of homeowners, state and city legislation is slow-moving and progress will have to come with patience and advocacy.

California state legislation has a growing group of lawmakers that are currently advocating for affordable housing, such as Sacramento which is currently trying to give more funding to cities that are pro-housing.

In the meantime, in-state residents like Wu encourage future homeowners to do their best in building a savings account.

“I recommend cohabitating with someone you’re close with in order to save money in the case that you do want to own property in the near future,” said Wu.

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