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California’s Housing Crisis Is Evolving During The Pandemic. What Will It Mean Long-Term?

A for rent sign is posted in front of an apartment buidling on September 01, 2020 in San Francisco, California.
A for rent sign is posted in front of an apartment buidling on September 01, 2020 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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During the coronavirus pandemic, housing demand trends have shifted rapidly as more people work from home— major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have seen rents drop, while prices have gone up in suburbs and mid-sized cities.

Many of these trends would have been unthinkable to economists this time last year. The median rent in San Francisco has dropped 25% since last March, for example, while Fresno, Bakersfield and Chula Vista have seen some of the largest rent increases in the country in the last ten months. Those that can work from home full time are leaving dense urban centers and opting to move to places with more outdoor and working space. But will these trends last? Given that remote work is likely to stick around at least partially in many workplaces (productivity has not dipped, and companies save money on office space), it’s likely some of these housing shifts will be lasting. However, rent decreases in low-income communities, where higher densities of essential workers live, have not kept pace with the decreases found in wealthier neighborhoods. Low-income Californians are also more likely to be hit by the effects of the recession, including job losses and pay cuts.

Today on AirTalk, we’re learning more about the housing shifts occurring in response to increasing work from home lifestyles, and what that might mean for California’s housing crisis long-term. Questions? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.


Gary Painter, professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy and Director of the USC Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute; he tweets @GaryDeanPainter

Oscar Wei, deputy chief economist at California Association of Realtors; he tweets @oscarcwei