Any effort to address poverty and inequality in California must start with the lack of affordable housing. The median home price in the state now tops $500,000, while the median rent for a two‐bedroom apartment tops $1,800 per month, nearly 55 percent higher than the national median. In cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, average rent exceeds $2,500 per month. The high cost of housing is largely a function of high demand and low supply. Estimates show that California needs 3.5 million housing units by 2025 just to meet current needs.
At the same time, there are an estimated 130,000 homeless people in the state, including around 28,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 60,000 in Los Angeles County alone. But even often‐overlooked cities such as San Diego have homeless populations in excess of 8,000. By some calculations, more than 47 percent of all unhoused homeless people in America reside in California. We are witnessing a major human tragedy; one that is only being made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the heart of these twin crises lies a plethora of government regulations and policies that makes it harder to build affordable housing or to assist the homeless. Therefore, the Cato Institute is bringing together academic experts, housing activists, and political leaders from across the ideological spectrum to discuss ways in which state and local officials can make housing more available and affordable.