Did California Overbuild its Housing Stock?

It all depends on the relevant time frame. If we look at the 00’s in isolation, California overbuilt.

But California has grew by 7 million people between 1990 and 2008 and added about 2.43 million housing units (all data are from US Census– assume that 98 percent of units permitted are actually built). The average household in California has 2.9 people (which is the second highest in the country, and compares with 2.5 nationally), which means that even without removals from the stock and no change in household size, the state needed 2.41 million new housing units. So if we look at the 18 year horizon, California did not overbuild–there we almost surely more than 20,000 demolitions over an 18 year period.

What if we go back to 1980? California grew by 13 million people and added 4.4 million housing units. At 2.91 people per unit, California demanded 4.46 million units. Again, it is safe to assume 60,000 demolitions over 28 years, so it is hard to make a case for long-run overbuilding.

Certainly, some housing was built in the wrong places, or was the wrong type of housing for the place (Lancaster and Beaumont come to mind). But it is hard to make a case that in aggregate California now has too many housing units.

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About Richard K. Green 103 Articles

Affiliation: University of Southern California

Richard K. Green, Ph.D., is the Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. He holds the Lusk Chair in Real Estate and is Professor in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development and the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Prior to joining the USC faculty, Dr. Green spent four years as the Oliver T. Carr, Jr., Chair of Real Estate Finance at The George Washington University School of Business. He was Director of the Center for Washington Area Studies and the Center for Real Estate and Urban Studies at that institution. Dr. Green also taught real estate finance and economics courses for 12 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was Wangard Faculty Scholar and Chair of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics. He also has been principal economist and director of financial strategy and policy analysis at Freddie Mac.

His research addresses housing markets, housing policy, tax policy, transportation, mortgage finance and urban growth. He is a member of two academic journal editorial boards, and a reviewer for several others.

His work is published in a number of journals including the American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Journal of Urban Economics, Land Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Real Estate Economics, Housing Policy Debate, Journal of Housing Economics, and Urban Studies.

His book with Stephen Malpezzi, A Primer on U.S. Housing Markets and Housing Policy, is used at universities throughout the country. His work has been cited or he has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and the Economist, as well as other outlets.

Dr. Green earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his A.B. in economics from Harvard University.

Visit: Real Estate and Urban Economics Blog

1 Comment on Did California Overbuild its Housing Stock?

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    I work for the law firm representing homeowners in the class-action. If you’re a California resident whose Skyline home isn’t up holding up to the weather, visit us at: http://www.hbsslaw.com/Skyline.htm.

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