They made a lot of money but left LA because it didn’t go far enough

Bethany Jansen and her husband Andrew decided to pack up their 500-square-foot Venice apartment and move to Bethany’s hometown near St. Petersburg. Louis starts a new life and career.

Jensen worked in downtown Los Angeles before the COVID-19 pandemic, commuting two hours a day. Jensen, 32, and her husband, 34, have a combined income of about $150,000 a year, but they feel buying a home in the neighborhood they want isn’t enough.

Now in St. Louis, the couple made less money but said it went further — and without the stressful commute.

“We get more out of our paycheck and a better quality of life because we don’t sit Being stuck in traffic all day,” she said. “Working from home allows me to set my schedule and my mental health is much better. We’re not making six figures like we used to, but it doesn’t matter because we can pay rent and do what we need to do. “

The Jensens represent part of the evacuation from Los Angeles and other major cities during the pandemic, which has opened up many opportunities for remote work and sparked deep conversations about what they want out of life.

A big factor for those with fairly high incomes leaving L.A. is home prices, which have continued to soar during the pandemic, leaving them wondering if they’ll be able to buy a home here.

A woman and a man at the beach

Bethany and Andrew Jansen in Venice Beach in April 2020.

(Adam Schluter/Hello Stranger)

“Knowing we’ll never be able to afford a house is a factor,” she said. “People buy a cottage in Los Angeles for $700,000, renovate it and sell it for $1.5 million. No matter how hard we try, we can never afford it.”

The couple now pay $1,300 a month to live in a three-bedroom home, which she said feels like a “mansion” compared to their one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, which rents for about $1,800 a month.

“You don’t get as much scenery and culture here, being able to drive to the beach — those are things we miss out on in Los Angeles,” Jensen said. “But those are things we can give up and live like this here. life.”

A woman and a man stand outside the house

The Jensen family outside their house in St. Petersburg. Louis in October. They can now live in a three-bedroom house for about $500 less a month than their one-bedroom apartment in Venice.

(A2B production)

Much has been said about the changing populations outside of California’s coastal hubs like Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and the new life some people are discovering in other parts of the state and country. For those who can afford it, the tradeoff includes giving up on dreams of living in the Golden State for cheaper housing and other financial benefits of a cheaper city.

But demographers doubt whether these changes in urban populations are permanent.

People will eventually move back, they say, new residents will be drawn to everything California has to offer, and immigration will help offset the exodus.

Los Angeles suffered the second-highest number of population losses between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, of the nation’s 56 major metropolitan areas, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution using U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Los Angeles’ net domestic migration (moving out compared to moving in) was 204,776, nearly double the population loss the city experienced when it lost 128,803 residents between 2019 and 2020.

“I don’t think we should see California as a long-term population loser. Immigrants will come back and there will be some breathing room in terms of affordability and other opportunities.”

—William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution

Since 2010, like other major metro areas, Los Angeles has seen an increase in internal and external immigration as more residents move to other parts of the country and the economy improves. Out-migration in the Los Angeles metro area did not change significantly from previous years between 2019 and 2020, but rose sharply between 2020 and 2021.

Since about 2000, California has been losing middle-class residents and attracting young professionals and college graduates because of the pandemic, said demographer William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the analysis. , the flow of migrants is not sufficient to counter internal outflows.

“California is a pretty liberal state and they have all these programs to help with student loans and affordable housing, but there’s a small group of people who aren’t doing badly to qualify, but they can do it by moving elsewhere better,” he said.

According to the Census Bureau, international immigration has slowed during the pandemic, reaching the lowest level in the U.S. in decades. The U.S. added 244,000 immigrants between 2020 and 2021—a significant drop from the 1 million who came to the U.S. between 2015 and 2016 and the 477,000 who immigrated between 2019 and 2020.

In the Los Angeles metro area, 5,237 international residents will move in from 2020 to 2021, the lowest number in more than two decades, according to Frey’s analysis of census estimates. By comparison, some 11,676 international migrants moved to the city between 2018 and 2019.

Frey expects immigration to pick up and help repopulate the state’s workforce.

“I don’t think we should see California as a long-term population loser,” he said. “Immigration will come back and there will be some breathing room in terms of affordability and other opportunities.”

Frey also said that long-term immigration trends in Los Angeles are not a good predictor of the past two years, and he fully expects some residents to move back in the wake of the pandemic​​​.

“Everyone is saying it has something to do with working from home changing people’s work habits, but sooner or later they’re going to want to get together again at some point,” he said. “There’s a lot going on in coastal California with a diverse economy. Educated and creative people will want to live there. It’s too early to say it’s over.”

Despite high taxes, California has historically been able to retain Residents because it offers high-quality services and amenities, including weather and picturesque beaches. Trouble comes when people stop believing the services meet their expectations, he said.

“The super-rich can always have the best of everything. But if you think housing is expensive, you worry about the quality of schools, and you don’t want the life you want it to be, COVID is a wake-up call to try new things things and experiments,” he said.

Kahn said the COVID-19 crisis has opened up new possibilities for more residents to stay away from work, and many Californians have taken advantage.

“Americans tend to live 30 minutes from where they work, but if you only go a few days a month, it can be bigger,” he said.

Kahn believes one way for California leaders to address the recent exodus is to focus on improving its services.

“If a city like Los Angeles is more free, it has to compete better to retain these people,” he said. “I’m a big believer in competition, so if California is exporting wealth and losing its upper middle class, cities are going to have to fight back. Getting better at crime, improving quality of life, reducing pollution – all of which we care about the quality of everyday life.”

Taylor Avakian, a Los Angeles-based broker and senior associate with Matthews Real Estate Investment Services, said he’s seen Californians move to Florida, Texas and other warmer states because of lower taxes.

“People prefer to pay less in taxes, and the pandemic is a big catalyst,” he said. “We pay taxes on the wonderful things we get in California, like the Mediterranean climate, but we can’t touch it because everything is shut down. People are asking, ‘Why do I have to pay for these facilities when I can’t use them?'”

A woman sitting on the sofa with her dog in the apartment

Tula Si Lovell, 34, at her Brooklyn apartment. Lovell moved from Los Angeles to New York with her husband during the pandemic, part of a growing trend of Los Angeles residents leaving the city.

(Timothy McGovern)

In November 2020, Tulasi Lovell moved from Culver City to a large house in Ramona, San Diego County.

Lovell, 34, wanted to be a homeowner but couldn’t afford a home in Los Angeles. After many of her friends left Los Angeles during the pandemic and she no longer needed to work in an office, Lovell decided to move to Brooklyn, New York after spending about a year in Ramona, with plans to buy a home in the nearby suburbs house.

Lovell and her husband, who make a combined $200,000 a year, said it wasn’t feasible for them to buy a dream home in Los Angeles.

“There’s a joke that if you see a million-dollar property in Los Angeles, it’s condemned,” she said. “I don’t think now is the right time, unless you bought a house a few years ago. It’s almost impossible to be a new homeowner.”

Sarah Dobbyn, 41, gave birth to her second child in April 2020 when local businesses and parks were closing and she and her husband, Joe, had nowhere to go.

The couple decided to move to Lake Oswego, Oregon, where Dobion’s parents offered a four-bedroom home in exchange for repairs and maintenance.

“We have two kids here, and we need to give up our dream of living in Los Angeles and being able to go to the beach and live in a small apartment,” she said. “Our salaries are good, but our money isn’t going very far in LA”

Dobion, who earns just over $100,000 a year, said she and her husband couldn’t afford a home in Los Angeles and would have to move further afield if they could.

“It’s the quality of life for us, our sons and our newborns,” she said. ‘If Joe and I didn’t have kids, we’d hang on in LA’

Lovell said if the company continues to let employees work from home, she may see more people leave Los Angeles.

“If more jobs are dispersed by remote work, there are a lot of better options for the middle class,” she said.

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