Holiday Roundup 3: Housing affordability challenges, domestic migration, California pension woes, and a tech boost for timber

We’ve been on a bit of a holiday hiatus over the last few weeks, but couldn’t resist occasionally dipping into the news cycle. As 2017 begins, there are a few storied we wanted to call out in a short series of roundup posts. 

This third and final roundup links to stories questioning urban housing affordability for the middle class, Seattle’s red-hot housing market, and how new technology may help the timber industry.

Wired: The Year in Housing: The Middle Class Can’t Afford to Live in Cities Anymore

The intractability of the middle class’ affordable housing problem stems largely from strict zoning laws that restrict building new housing, and the not-in-my-backyard mindsets of homeowners who oppose affordable housing initiatives. 

“Housing issues are a product of economic growth in the city bumping up against strict zoning constraints, that’s what leads to the unaffordability problem,” says David Shulman, Senior Economist at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Geek Wire: Seattle maintains status as nation’s hottest housing market due to relentless tech job growth

For the second straight month, Seattle home prices grew faster than any other major metro region in the country.

That’s according to data from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Index, a leading indicator of home price gains. According to the October report, Seattle experienced a 10.7 percent year-over-year price increase, followed by Portland at 10.3 percent and Denver at 8.4 percent.

New Geography: Back to the Future: Moving Interstate Again, to the South and West

New data from the Census indicates that population growth and domestic migration patterns have continued to move away from the East and the Midwest to the South and West, at accelerated rates. Equally important, pre-Great Recession interstate mobility rates have been restored…

Throughout the decade, Texas has led in net domestic migration. But the race is much closer, with the Longhorn state leading second ranked Florida by only 500…

Other net domestic migration leaders added between 200,000 and 250,000, including Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona and South Carolina. Washington, Oregon, Tennessee and Georgia added between 100,000 and 200,000 net domestic migrants, as did Nevada, which ranked 11th, a remarkable turnaround. 

The American Interest: Californians See Their First Pension Cut

For years, we’ve been warning this day was coming: California pensioners in the small town of Loyalton have just been told that their benefits will be cut in 2017. Fox Businessreports (h/t Pension Tsunami):

For the first time in its 85-year history, the California Public Employees Retirement System, CalPERS, is drastically cutting benefits for public retirees. Starting January 1st, four retired City of Loyalton public employees will have their pensions cut 60 percent…

Three years ago, Loyalton pulled out of CalPERS for current employees after being told that its accounts were only 40 percent funded even though the city had reliably paid its dues to the system. Now, CalPERS openly admits it’s punishing current Loyalton retirees for that decision.

This is just the beginning. CalPERS is only 65 percent funded overall, after failing to realize its expected 7.5 percent return. 

The Columbian: New technology offers hope for timber industry

…a new wood product that’s the buzz of the construction industry. It’s called cross-laminated timber, or CLT, and it’s made like it sounds: rafts of 2-by-4 beams aligned in perpendicular layers, then glued — or laminated — together like a giant sandwich.

The resulting panels are lighter and less energy-intensive than concrete and steel and much faster to assemble on-site than regular timber, proponents said. Because the grain in each layer is at a right angle to the one below and above it, there’s a counter-tension built into the panels that supporters said makes them strong enough to build even the tallest skyscrapers…

From Maine to Arkansas to the Pacific Northwest, the material is sparking interest among architects, engineers and researchers. Many said it could infuse struggling forest communities like Riddle with new economic growth while reducing the carbon footprint of urban construction with a renewable building material.