One of the greatest mysteries of SCAG's so-called "RHNA Process" is that it is based on the assumption that millions of people are frantically beating down the doors of California to move here and buy a condo. In the minds of Sacramento's central planners, the folks famous for having all of the answers to questions nobody wanted to ask, this region needs to build a lot of densely packed housing for new people to live, even here in Sierra Madre. Apparently SCAG has detected a great restlessness out there in the heartland, something that will soon result in a mass migration to the Golden State rivaling even the gold rush days.
The purpose of Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers is to make certain that there will be enough new development in place to accommodate these projected increases in population. The notion being that if things are carefully enough planned there will never be housing shortages and everyone will have a place to live. Which is how things could be done I suppose, but then who exactly is it that holds the crystal ball? Upon whose word do hundreds of communities throughout Southern California base their state mandated planning for new housing upon? Collectively spending millions of dollars in consultant fees in the process?
That would be SCAG, or the Southern California Area Governments, a largely Federally funded Regional Planning Organization (RPO) tasked with figuring out how many new residents are on their way to our little corner of the creation. Along with mandating how much development we should plan to build in order to accommodate these pilgrims. But is SCAG actually any good at the job? Apparently not.
As an example, if you click here you will be taken to a neatly charted stack of figures called the SCAG County Population Forecasts for 1998. As an example, you will notice that SCAG projected a 2010 Los Angeles County population of 10,868,900. But if you were to then go to a US Census site for Los Angeles County (click here) you will see that the actual population in 2010 turned out to be 9,818605. SCAG missed the mark by the considerable amount of well over 1 million souls.
Another example would be San Bernardino County (click here). SCAG's 1998 projection data claimed the population there in 2010 would be 2,239,600. The 2010 US Census figure was 2,035,210.
None of this seems to stop SCAG, however. They apparently are never held accountable for their junk population projections, and Federal funding keeps on rolling in. It really is a pretty sweet deal for them. First they issue erroneous population increase projections, then they demand through their very own "RHNA Process" that all of the communities under their thumb plan for new housing based on that bad data. In the RPO world they really are no better than your friendly neighborhood palm reader.
It gets even stranger. While SCAG continues to call today for increased housing development throughout the region based on its own population increase projections, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research says something entirely different. Using US Census findings and other current data, what the Manhattan Institute clearly shows is that since 1990 California has actually lost 3.4 million residents to other states. Which has resulted in the loss of tens of billions of dollars in state taxes.
So who exactly is it that SCAG says we need to alter the entire character of our community to accommodate? Apparently no one. They only exist on paper they themselves produce. Here is a summary taken from the Manhattan Institute report.
The Great California Exodus: A Closer Look (click here) - For decades after World War II, California was a destination for Americans in search of a better life. In many people’s minds, it was the state with more jobs, more space, more sunlight, and more opportunity. They voted with their feet, and California grew spectacularly (its population increased by 137 percent between 1960 and 2010). However, this golden age of migration into the state is over. For the past two decades, California has been sending more people to other American states than it receives from them. Since 1990, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents through this migration.
This study describes the great ongoing California exodus, using data from the Census, the Internal Revenue Service, the state’s Department of Finance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and other sources. We map in detail where in California the migrants come from, and where they go when they leave the state. We then analyze the data to determine the likely causes of California’s decline and the lessons that its decline holds for other states.
The data show a pattern of movement over the past decade from California mainly to states in the western and southern U.S.: Texas, Nevada, and Arizona, in that order, are the top magnet states. Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah follow. Rounding out the top ten are two southern states: Georgia and South Carolina.
A finer-grained regional analysis reveals that the main current of migration out of California in the past decade has flowed eastward across the Colorado River, reversing the storied passages of the Dust Bowl era. Southern California had about 55 percent of the state’s population in 2000 but accounted for about 65 percent of the net out-migration in the decade that followed. More than 70 percent of the state’s net migration to Texas came from California’s south.
What has caused California’s transformation from a “pull in” to a “push out” state? The data have revealed several crucial drivers. One is chronic economic adversity (in most years, California unemployment is above the national average). Another is density: the Los Angeles and Orange County region now has a population density of 6,999.3 per square mile—well ahead of New York or Chicago. Dense coastal areas are a source of internal migration, as people seek more space in California’s interior, as well as migration to other states. A third factor is state and local governments’ constant fiscal instability, which sends at least two discouraging messages to businesses and individuals. One is that they cannot count on state and local governments to provide essential services—much less, tax breaks or other incentives. Second, chronically out-of-balance budgets can be seen as tax hikes waiting to happen.
The data also reveal the motives that drive individuals and businesses to leave California. One of these, of course, is work. States with low unemployment rates, such as Texas, are drawing people from California, whose rate is above the national average. Taxation also appears to be a factor, especially as it contributes to the business climate and, in turn, jobs. Most of the destination states favored by Californians have lower taxes. States that have gained the most at California’s expense are rated as having better business climates. The data suggest that many cost drivers—taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs—are prompting businesses to locate outside California, thus helping to drive the exodus.
Population change, along with the migration patterns that shape it, are important indicators of fiscal and political health. Migration choices reveal an important truth: some states understand how to get richer, while others seem to have lost the touch. California is a state in the latter group, but it can be put back on track. All it takes is the political will.
A pretty fascinating read. And after having listened to sheer fantasies from the likes of Hasan Ikhrata and Karen Warner, along with those who would deny that the economic factors described above are playing a key role, a sobering breathe of fresh air as well.