Friday, November 21, 2008

Inland Empire Economist John Husing #97

Bruce Norris is joined once again by Inland Empire Economist and Specialist John Husing.

Bruce Norris mentions that The Norris Group is now ready to start purchasing properties with the intent to hold them as rentals. Bruce says we’re buying at 28% of what the lender was owed.

John takes Moreno Valley as an example of what happened in the last cycle with rentals. The injection of rentals in areas that were traditionally owner occupied caused problems. Rentals are generally not as well cared for as owner occupied properties in the area. Home values go down because of this. In areas dominated by rentals, calls for police soar. Soon turnover increases as renters look for the best deals and there’s soon a rent war. Side effects of too many rentals can cause many issues. John says Moreno Valley was destroyed by HUD in the last cycle because they didn’t even think about the effects to the communities.

In the stabilization act, money has been given to cities to help stop this issue. Cities can negotiate prices in bulk and then double escrow the homes at certain prices over to construction firms to bring them back to nice homes. They then sell these homes to qualified first time home buyers. San Bernardino did this in the last cycle. 90% of the people who purchased those homes were still in 10 years later.

Bruce mentions that homeownership levels got too high and that more rentals will be a natural conclusion. John thinks it’s more of a pricing question. If prices got down to a level that’s affordable, people will buy. He says California has never built enough homes for its population.

John says that demand for homes is accelerating greatly. Unfortunately, the supply of foreclosures is still coming in great quantity which continues to bring down prices. John feels the only real solution is to get the principal down.

Bruce says Riverside is one of the possible hot spots once this all turns around. John says the Inland region has more construction dirt available then other counties. Over the next 25 years, Southern California will add 6 million people. Orange County and San Diego are built out or zoned out of being able to build. LA is in a similar situation. Once we get through this downturn, the Inland region has tremendous growth opportunity.

Bruce says that people would rather be in California then many other states. For the next couple of years, people from other states will start to recognize the opportunity to move to California and be making the same payment or less and be able to live in a better climate. Bruce thinks we’ll see massive in migration. John says he too thinks people will be looking at California as a place to retire.

Bruce talks about how he got to Riverside and the massive growth that’s taken place. John explains the three stage growth process. By the late 70s, Riverside developers started developing in the area. People were putting up houses where people didn’t want to live. But affordability is important. Later, the entrepreneurial developers come out here because there was a market. Retail centers soon follow because of demand. Housing boom tends lead to population serving businesses coming into the area. Industrial developers follow after which creates blue collar jobs. The Inland area was in Stage 3 where we saw increasing upscale houses being built. The Inland Empire saw much younger people move into the area. This influx of young talent with higher education opens up the area for much different jobs and services. The Inland Empire economy will be back on John’s three stage development once we get through this cycle.

John says San Fernando and Orange County went through this same three stage growth cycle. Orange County went through stage three in the 70s. John tells the story of South Coast Plaza. Orange County is actually worried because it’s losing its young and educated workers to the Inland Empire.

In Riverside, all industries are having a difficult time. Residential construction brought in a large about of jobs. Warehousing and distribution have also been main drivers for jobs. Now that these have both slowed, unemployment has boomed.

Bruce asks John if the Feds will crank up infrastructure projects. John says that would be the way to help the economy. The influx of cash to consumers by the government in May didn’t work because they paid off debt or went to Walmart.

Bruce asks John about the difference in median incomes from the Orange County and Riverside. John says they are very different. However, if you take the median income and then subtract the cost of housing, it’s about dead even. As the economy approves, we’ll continue to pull more and more people from Orange County for this reason.

More on John Husing and his research at

In August 2006, Dr. John Husing was listed by the L.A. Times Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful people shaping life in Southern California. He is a leading authority on the impact of the goods movement industry on the region, and in particular its role as a provider of upward economic mobility to blue collar workers. He has just completed major studies on the impact of the proposed Clean Truck Program at ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and has recommended some changes in strategy.

In addition, Dr. Husing has spent decades studying the city & county economies of Southern California with a specialty on the Inland Empire. This research began when he began working on his doctoral thesis at Claremont Graduate University in 1964. For the past 43 years, Dr. Husing has conducted extensive research plus interviews with executives and entrepreneurs to understand the forces shaping Southern California. He has a deep understanding of our political process, having managed over 100 partisan and non-partisan campaigns. Today, he uses his extensive knowledge of the region and his political experience to explain the economy to business leaders and policy makers throughout the Southland.

Privately, John Husing enjoys life as an adventurer, taking treks into uncharted territories as well as traveling to 52 different countries. In recent years, he has twice entered the unexplored jungles of NW New Guinea to make first contact with previously undiscovered stone-aged tribes. His last trip was trekking over the Himalayas from Nepal into Tibet. Closer to home, Dr. Husing is an amateur genealogist with his American roots traced back 12 generations to Robert Fuller and his family on the Mayflower.

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