Southern California can't match nation's new housing pace

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One thing would certainly ease a major Southern Californian economic concern: extra choices for those seeking adequate housing.

Well, the region’s chronic housing shortage didn’t get much help last year, as five local counties — as well as the state — continued to trail the nation’s pace of creating new living quarters.

I tossed new Census data into my trusty spreadsheet to see if a recent upswing in construction activity was making a significant change in how much housing — for ownership or for rent — was available. What I found was that Southern California added 34,000 housing units in the year ended July 1, 2016, to 6.4 million.

Yes, Southern California’s new housing in 2016 approximates the combined additions in Alabama, New Jersey and Wisconsin. But the 0.53 percent increase last year — yes, better than 0.41 percent average annual rate in the previous five years — again trails the U.S. pace.

Nationally, 910,300 housing units were added last year to 135.7 million. That’s a 0.68 percent jump vs. 0.45 percent annual average in 2010-15.

Southern California fared only a bit better than statewide patterns: 73,300 units were added last year to 14.1 million. In terms of raw increase, California was third best among the states behind Texas and Florida. And while California’s 0.52 percentage increase was an improvement above 0.43 percent-a-year seen in 2010-15, last year’s statewide housing-creation pace was topped by 28 other states including Texas, the nation’s best, at 1.58 percent.

The local pacesetter was Orange County, Southern California’s only county to top last year’s national housing creation pace.

Orange County added 9,200 units last year — just about the additions in either Iowa or Illinois — to 1.1 million. Orange County sped up its housing creation, growing 0.85 percent in 2016 vs. a 0.59 percent annual average in 2010-15.

Los Angeles County added 16,600 units last year — roughly Utah’s total additions — to 3.5 million. But that surge looks small considering L.A.’s huge size: housing grew 0.47 percent in 2016 vs. 0.33 percent annual average in 2010-15.

Riverside County suffered a mild slowdown. It added 4,600 units last year — just about Hawaii’s pace — to 831,400. That’s up 0.56 percent but below the 0.62 percent-a-year pace of 2010-15.

San Bernardino County added 2,600 units last year — slightly more than New Mexico’s growth — to 714,300. That’s up 0.37 percent vs. 0.33 percent-a-year in 2010-15. In Ventura County, 1,000 housing units were added to 286,900 — a 0.34 percent increase vs. 0.29 percent a year in 2010-15.

So is Southern California making progress? The five counties did combine to add more housing units since the recession ended in 2010 than fast-growth states such as Arizona or Colorado or Washington or Virginia in the six-year period.

But if the region had built at the national pace over the past six years, there would be 22,000 more housing units here. Or, look at regional growth this way: The six-year tally is slightly fewer new units than Texas added … in just the past year.



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