By Nick Cahill
SACRAMENTO (CN) – Unlike many of his predecessors, when California Gov. Gavin Newsom took office, he did so during an economic boom that had already produced nine straight years of job growth and near-record-low unemployment rates in the Golden State.
As income taxes have spiked, California’s housing supply has stagnated with the shortage morphing into perhaps the new governor’s biggest trouble. Newsom’s response has been swift as he has sued a city for ignoring housing goals and offered up a $1.75 billion plan that rewards cities and developers for new projects.
Based on the results of a new poll released Wednesday, the Democrat’s housing approach has been a hit early on with voters.
“Housing affordability is considered a problem in every major region today, and this is causing many Californians to think seriously about moving out of the state,” said Mark Baldassare, Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) president and CEO.
Newsom, 51, kicked off his term by using his inaugural address to call for a “Marshall Plan” for affordable housing, and address the state’s estimated 3.5 million home supply shortage. He admits there is a torrent of underlying conditions steadily preventing millions from the California dream.
“Even in a booming economy, there is a disquieting sense that things are not as predictable as they once were,” Newsom said during his inaugural address in January. “Stagnant wages. Costs that keep rising – rent, utilities, visiting the doctor – the basics are increasingly out of reach.”
According to a new survey by the nonpartisan PPIC, voters are not just concerned with spiking housing costs, they are considering ditching the Golden State for more affordable pastures.
Over two-thirds of likely voters (72 percent) said housing prices are a big problem in their area of the state, including 80 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area, 74 percent in Los Angeles and 71 percent in Orange/San Diego counties. After hearing a brief description of Newsom’s $1.75 billion proposal, over 65 percent said they were in favor of his plan.
The sticker shock involved with home shopping in California where median home prices are around $530,000 is taking a toll on residents: 47 percent of respondents said they are seriously considering moving away from their current home, with 35 percent of those respondents saying they are looking outside the state.
People unable to buy homes in California aren’t finding cheap alternatives either, as the state is home to six of the 10 most expensive rental markets in the country. The average two bedroom home in San Francisco costs over $4,600 per month, and $3,200 in Los Angeles.
Over 80 percent of the Californians polled said poverty is at least somewhat of a problem while two-thirds said the gap between the rich and the poor is expanding.
Two weeks ago Newsom ordered the state to close up shop on its death chamber, granting temporary reprieves for each of the 737 inmates on California’s death row. The executive action was praised by civil rights groups but bashed by law enforcement and Republican critics who said the governor was subverting the voters’ will.
With capital punishment in the limelight, the PPIC asked the respondents whether they are more in favor of the death penalty or life imprisonment for first-degree murders.
Just over 30 percent answered the death penalty, 62 percent for life imprisonment and 7 percent didn’t choose. The results are a stark contrast from a 2000 PPIC poll in which respondents were nearly evenly split on the same question.
As for Newsom’s performance, 45 percent said they approve of how he’s handling his job thus far, with 26 percent disapproving.
The governor has also made waves with comments regarding two of the state’s two largest proposed public works projects in the high-speed rail and California WaterFix.
Newsom has called for a pause and new approach to the building of both the bullet train and water infrastructure project, which will cost the state over $100 billion to eventually complete. Former Gov. Jerry Brown pushed hard to get the contentious projects going during his two terms.
Just over half of adult respondents (53 percent) answered that it was a good idea to scale back the high-speed rail project and focus solely on a Central Valley portion, while 52 percent said it was a good idea to trim the WaterFix in half and build one tunnel instead of two as Gov. Brown planned.
“Slim majorities support the governor’s recent proposals to scale back two of the state’s controversial infrastructure projects—high-speed rail and the Delta tunnels,” Baldassare said.
The PPIC contacted 1,706 adults across five regions, and has a plus or minus 3.4 percent sampling error for adults, and plus or minus 3.7 percent for the 1,112 that identified as likely voters.