As housing growth in big cities fails to keep up with job growth, the inevitable surge in home prices and rents creates a squeeze on middle income earners. But it also pushes many of these individuals out to low-cost sprawl areas, whether it’s the San Joaquin Valley by the Bay Area or high desert or Inland Empire by Los Angeles.
The consequence of that migration is not just a major environmental toll, as these individuals commute long distances to job centers while sprawling out over open space and agricultural lands. It’s also further economic inequality. As California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) reports:
This data suggests [sic] that those who work in relatively inexpensive inland California have a harder time making ends meet than those working in high cost coastal areas. It further suggests that many workers are made worse off by moving away from high-wage places like the Bay Area. Why then do households (especially low-income households) appear to be leaving high-wage coastal areas? Based on the research discussed above and our office’s prior work, it seems likely that a major contributing factor is their inability to find housing.
Restrictive housing policies in high-wage areas therefore push people into poor areas of the state, where they remain poor as they lack access to good jobs.
It’s not a recipe for a healthy, functioning society in the long term.