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Experts call for high-density housing at Central Coast Economic Forecast

Posted: 6:36 PM, Nov 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-08 21:40:51-05
Experts call for high-density housing at Central Coast Economic Forecast

Economists are urging Central Coast leaders to build more and to build up.

This year's Central Coast Economic Forecast highlighted the growth of many aspects of the local economy, but economists stressed building more high-density housing units to support the workforce.

"You have healthcare growing, you have venture capital coming to the region, you have these bright young kids coming from San Luis Obispo.
None of that groundswell of economic effort can actually take root here if you don't have the housing stock to allow the labor force to grow," said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics and keynote speaker at the forecast.

Building more might sound easy, but some local developers said zoning and NIMBYs make it difficult to build.

There are things to be proud of - health care professions, higher education, hotels and the SLO County Regional Airport are expanding and right now, the county's unemployment rate is 2.8%, tied with the lowest it's ever been in the county.

However, Thornberg said it's not a reason to celebrate.

"That means there is a lack of workforce out there and that is a huge problem for employers," he said.

Thornberg asked audience members to hold up a green card if finding qualified employees was a problem for their business. Nearly 90% did.

"We don't have a lot of people who are unemployed but when certain positions do open up, it can be hard to attract the talent or keep the talent and it all goes back to housing," said Adam Hill, San Luis Obispo County 3rd District Supervisor.

Economists say denser housing could reduce traffic.

"It also makes those billions of dollars we are putting into public transit systems that much more effective and that much more desirable," Thornberg said.

Data also shows no population growth and in places like Morro Bay and Grover Beach, the population is actually shrinking.

Experts say this could be because people from out of town are buying homes.

Read more about Thornberg's predictions on recession, international trade war impacts and real estate costs here.