L.A.'s housing costs make it harder for companies to keep workers here, survey finds

With year-round sunshine, golden beaches and some of the country’s best tacos and burritos, you might think Los Angeles wouldn’t have a problem attracting and retaining workers.

But like many metropolitan areas burdened with high housing costs, the region’s affordability crisis is deterring workers from putting down roots, according to the results of a survey released this week by USC and the Los Angeles Business Council.

“Though we have yet to see a critical mass of businesses priced out of the region, this is an area of concern,” Raphael Bostic, a professor of public policy at USC who led the research, said in a statement.

According to Bostic, high housing costs are leading to employers’ having to develop special hiring packages, subsidize employee transportation or offer relocation costs, which puts a strain on companies’ bottom lines and makes it harder to compete with markets where housing costs aren’t as high.

“There’s ample evidence to show that the time is now to implement strategies to reduce housing costs,” he said.

The survey team reached out to nearly 50 of Los Angeles’ largest employers and received responses from 15 of them.

Nearly 60% of those surveyed said the region’s high cost of living was affecting employee retention, and 64% of the companies said they had to factor in cost of living when negotiating hiring packages for high-level employees.

Southern California home prices have been rising steadily for nearly five years, a result of a rebounding economy, low mortgage rates and few homes on the market. According to real estate firm CoreLogic, the median price of a Los Angeles County home in February was $525,000, up 7.9% from a year earlier.

The survey also found that when employees can’t afford housing near their jobs, they have to undergo long, taxing commutes, which can hurt employee satisfaction and productivity. Nearly every employer surveyed said more than 25% of their employees spent more than 45 minutes commuting to or from work.

“It’s concerning that high housing costs could lead to Los Angeles losing its competitive edge in recruiting top talent,” said Mary Leslie, president of the Los Angeles Business Council. “This survey underscores the need to think outside the box and tackle our city’s high cost of living problem.”

Still, one city’s loss is another’s gain. Cities such as Seattle, where the cost of housing is nearly half that of San Francisco’s, have bolstered their workforces by snapping up employees who are leaving pricier regions. A recent report from LinkedIn found that San Francisco has been the top source of new workers moving to Seattle in the last 12 months, followed by moves to New York and Chicago.

tracey.lien@latimes.com

Twitter: @traceylien

Times staff writer Andrew Khouri contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

11:05 a.m.: This article was updated with information about Southern California home prices.

This article was originally published at 10:30 a.m.

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