Economist John Husing

Economist John Husing

People without homes, people wanting homes and people with homes are struggling today to establish roots and realize their dreams. The law of unintended consequences is more in effect than ever as federal, state and local officials vie to solve social problems in a way that favors their constituencies. Nationwide, state differences seem as intense as in the days of the Civil War. Locally, haves and have-nots battle for control. Diversity plays a growing role.

California’s Prop. 13 in the late 1970s opened the door to conflict between traditional homeowners, younger individuals and families seeking to meet their economic needs and opportunities. And the desire for more money has driven cities to forego idealistic ideas of amenities once sought. The Dick and Jane life of the Southern California of 50 years ago which brought comfort to the World War II vet’s family is no more. Those gleaming orchards of citrus and sunny days showing snow-capped mountains broadcast nationwide from the Rose Bowl gave way to crowded streets, job problems and higher housing costs. U.S. foreign policy changes which neglected Latin America and encouraged trade with Asia, and now tariffs, have led to economic decisions affecting NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) folks.

The 20th century SoCal sales pitches succeeded too well.

This month a 1,001-square-foot home built in Chino in 1918, with 3 bedrooms and one bathroom, sold for more than $400,000 after being on the market three weeks. A 1963 house with 1,364 square feet including four bedrooms and two baths, on the market less than a month, sold for $460,000. If these homes had been in parts of Orange County they would have brought 25 to 50 percent more, and in the Bay Area up north where more lucrative jobs are available, they would have cost twice as much, or more. 

According to the area’s economic guru, John Husing, the Inland Empire which includes Chino Valley faces a slowdown in job increases, but nevertheless should see an upbeat economy for the next 15 years as growth moves east from fairly saturated  Los Angeles and Orange county and their more expensive land use and housing situations. Mr. Husing, 78, last week spoke at an under-attended chamber of commerce Pizza and Politics lunch. His humor and good cheer belie the stern image of his title, which is chief economist for the Inland Empire Economics Partnership.

The focus of his current work has been on the clash between regulatory policy in California that is shutting off the growth of jobs in fields like construction, manufacturing and logistics needed for marginally educated workers to access the middle class. He feels this contributes to the increase in the share of the state’s people living in poverty, with the public health and social implications that this entails. And while the poverty level is dropping now in the Chino Valley and the Inland Empire, the rise in jobs will hit a ceiling because of the type available, now centered in “logistics and distribution” (i.e. warehousing and delivery), health services and construction, all lower paying and less educated occupations.

So what’s the 40 years old Prop. 13, the limit on property taxes, got to do with it? My view is that this measure which guarded property owners against runaway taxes when each public agency  (city, county,  school and special district) could assess its own tax rate without much restraint has resulted in a shift in financial responsibility, and with it control of local policy. Local governments have seen some of their ability to control such things as growth and land use taken away. Throw in the elimination of redevelopment programs, which were getting abusive anyway,  local planners have had to bow to the wishes of the state, pressured by the federal government, to combat poverty, homelessness and increasing shortages in infrastructure and transportation.

The result is more pressure on cities and counties to get away from the zoning rules that protected the homeowners from changes in the zones of comfort that they had invested in when they originally bought their places. Having amenities run out before the 30-year-mortgage is paid off is the same for many people as losing retirement rights vested in secure jobs that change because the once dependable company sells out to or is swallowed up by a larger firm that puts more emphasis on the bottom line than its role in the community.

Likewise, communities such as Chino and Chino Hills, which at one time promoted policies that favored certain amenities have dropped their hard lines on such things as ordinances on commercial and industrial uses, signs and clutter in order to retain and increase sales and property tax income.

NIMBYism is not just a selfish interest. It’s a defense against the change that threatens established comfort zones honestly paid for by people seeking something worthwhile in their lives. 

There are many popular quotes about change being inevitable if you want something on the internet (or a book of quotes) to play with.

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