Ontario, Calif. – The Inland Empire faces a severe housing shortage which, left unchecked, will ripple through Southern California and the state, experts warned on Thursday.
Participating in a symposium on the affordability of housing, leaders in government, real estate and development agreed that regulatory hurdles and misinformed opposition to housing pose a very real threat to the middle class.
“We need a government that understands that growth is important, that diversity of employment is important, and that housing is important,” said Joel Kotkin, researcher and author on economic and political trends. “We need to take care of the middle class, and the last place that’s going to happen in Southern California is the Inland Empire.”
The I.E. (San Bernardino and Riverside counties) is home to more than 4 million residents, many of whom were lured to the area by the availability of moderately priced housing. That is changing quickly, however, as development has slowed, dropping supplies below a growing demand.
Thursday’s symposium, “Housing the Future: The Inland Empire as Southern California’s Indispensable Geography,” identified burdensome regulations as a major deterrent to the building of houses and apartments.
“There is a belief that housing is a drain on the local economy. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Carlos Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Building Industry Association, Baldy View Chapter.
Rodriguez cited research showing that over the course of 15 years, a 100-unit housing project will lead to $13 million in economic growth and $4 million in additional tax revenues for the community.
Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rancho Cucamonga-based National CORE, said cities and counties have to start regarding housing not as a detriment, but as a critical economic asset.
“The fact is, housing is an economic catalyst, and for Southern California, housing in the Inland Empire is critical to the region’s economic sustainability,” PonTell said. “We’ve long been the place where the middle class could afford to live. As that goes away, so will our employment base.”
PonTell noted that California is 1 million housing units short of meeting demand.
“In Southern California alone, that number is 600,000, which means we would need to build 600,000 units just to break even,” he said. “When demand exceeds supplies to that level, prices rise and fewer people – fewer workers – can afford to live here. Employers then leave because they can’t afford to pay their employees enough. The ripple effect on our overall economy is staggering.”
According to the California Association of Realtors, 47 percent of households in the I.E. could afford a median-priced home during the third quarter of 2014, versus 32 percent throughout Greater Los Angeles. In Orange County, only 20 percent of households could afford a median-priced home. Even so, the affordability index for the Inland Empire has dropped during the past year, from 51 percent of households being able to afford a median-priced home during the comparable period in 2013.
Several panelists talked about the need to include all types of housing in the bigger policy discussion.
“It was encouraging to hear policymakers include ‘multifamily housing’ in their discussion about the future needs of the Inland Empire,” said Tom Bannon, Chief Executive Officer of the California Apartment Association. “Elected leaders need to plan for all types of housing to ensure economic growth and sustainability.”
The symposium was hosted by National CORE, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing, and sponsored by the Inland Valleys Association of Realtors. Additional support was provided by the BIA, Baldy View and Riverside chapters, the California Apartment Association, the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino, PNC Real Estate, Citi, Hudson Housing Capital, the Cities of Rialto and Ontario, Housing Partners I Inc., Western Riverside Council of Governments and the San Bernardino County Economic Development Agency.
The summit was the third regional or national housing symposium hosted by National CORE since 2012.
FOR MEDIA: Copies of the Kotkin report available upon request.

Contact: Steve Lambert, The 20/20 Network
(909) 841-7527/ [email protected]