The Sacramento region’s largest local governments will see pension costs go up by an estimated 14 percent next fiscal year, starting a series of annual increases that many city officials say are “unsustainable” and will force service cuts or tax hikes.
The increases come after CalPERS in December reduced the expected rate of return from investments, forcing local governments and other participants in the state’s retirement plan to pay more to cover the cost of pensions.
. . . Leyne Milstein, the city of Sacramento’s finance director, said the city’s pension costs will double in seven years. While city revenues have also increased in recent years, thanks in part to a strong real-estate market, they have not increased as much as pension costs in actual dollars.
“It’s not sustainable,” Milstein said. “These costs are going to make things incredibly challenging.”
After a decades-long battle with California’s building industry, developers who want to fast-track housing production – especially in cities that have not built enough housing to keep pace with rising demand – will be required to pay higher wages and benefits to construction workers beginning Jan. 1.
Five of 15 housing bills signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown this year include so-called prevailing wage rules for employers and contractors to pay laborers higher wages and benefits for new construction projects.
The requirements, reached after more than a year of negotiations between powerful labor groups and state Democratic lawmakers, represent the biggest expansion of union-backed pay mandates for construction workers since the late 1990s.
California governments likely will make do with fewer teachers, parks employees and other public workers while they struggle to absorb fast-rising pension costs in the next few years, a former state lawmaker argues in a study released this week through Stanford University.
Former Democratic Assemblyman Joe Nation projects that many cities, counties and school districts will double their spending on pensions by 2030, “crowding out” their ability to fund public services.
The trend is an acceleration of the swelling pension costs that most California governments have recorded since the dot-com crash in the early 2000s, when pension plans that had been over-funded suddenly had to catch up with investment losses.
“As painful and as steep as these increases have been since 2003, my best estimate is that we are only about half way through these increases,” said Nation, who is now a researcher at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. “If you’re a public agency and you went from paying $1 million a year to $10 million a year, that’s an enormous increase. You’re likely to go from $10 million to $20 million by the year 2030.”
Housing experts say it is the most ambitious move the state has taken in decades – and perhaps ever – to address the issue. They say it is “historic” in part because the state’s housing affordability crisis, with rising home values, skyrocketing rents and rampant tenant displacement, is unprecedented. As costs have grown since the recession, the state has done little until now.
But Californians should not expect the effects to be felt immediately. Even years down the road, the measures will not stop rents from increasing or home prices from trending upwards.
“It’s very hard to get enough housing built to lower the price,” Rosen said. “New funding may build several thousand units, but that’s very small compared to the size of the need. If we make it easier for developers to build housing, the market will be able to better keep pace with demand, and therefore we may be able to slow the rate of increase.”
More than half of California voters say the state’s housing affordability crisis is so bad that they’ve considered moving, and 60 percent of the electorate supports rent control, according to a new statewide poll.
The findings from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies reflect broad concerns Californians have over the soaring cost of living. Amid an unprecedented housing shortage, rents have skyrocketed and tenants have faced mass evictions, especially in desirable areas.
“It’s an extremely serious problem,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo. “People are being forced to consider moving because of the rising cost of housing – that’s pretty prevalent all over the state.”
Of the 56 percent of voters who said they’ve considered moving, 1 in 4 said they’d relocate out of state if they did.