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Does California Need Higher Housing Prices? Or Lower Ones?

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Falling home prices in California are at the heart of the persistent economic difficulties here. Job loss has been particularly high in enterprises related to housing and construction.

But if you're listening to experts talk about the state needs to repair its housing market and its economy, you might well be confused.

Some experts say California needs a recovery of housing prices to boost construction and its economy.

But other experts note that the state's housing prices are still relatively high compared to its neighbors -- and those high prices -- not high taxes -- are why many middle-class Californians are leaving. (There's an interesting new report on this subject here).

So which is it that we want? Higher housing prices, or lower housing prices.

It's a tough question to answer. For now, here's the best I can do: we want a little bit of both.

In coastal areas, the state needs lower housing prices that will draw in buyers and keep them from leaving for states where housing is cheaper.

But in inland areas where housing prices have dropped and left many homeowners underwater and in debt, houses are too easy to come by.

California could use greater demand, less new supply -- and ultimately higher prices.

A policy that does different things in different parts of the state is a complicated policy.

And the federal government and state government, which would have to take dramatic action and cooperate to address the housing problem, seem incapable of enacting and carrying out complicated policies.

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