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Selma Hepp Weighs in on Bay Area Housing Dilemma for San Francisco Business Times

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California may lead the nation in economic output, and the Bay Area may be the center of its tech and real estate boom, but the region’s leaders are heading for a major failure if they don’t do something to address affordable housing and retain talent, an economist told the Business Times this week.

“In coastal California, and particularly in the Bay Area, we are faced with a paradoxical dilemma,” Selma Hepp, chief economist and vice president for business intelligence for Pacific Union, told the Business Times.

“On one hand, we live in the epicenter of technological revolution where talent, innovation and entrepreneurship have fueled extraordinary growth over the last few years, boosting employment opportunities and income growth,” Hepp said.

She pointed to recent data that shows the San Jose metro area growing at the fastest pace in the nation in 2015 at 8.9 percent, followed closely by the San Francisco metro area’s 5.8 percent annual growth last year. The Bay Area has three of the five largest U.S. companies by market valuation, and the “talent, knowledge and the spillover effects” of the tech industry.

But none of that will be enough to keep that talent here in the long term if the Bay Area can’t find away to make living here more affordable, Hepp warned.

Read more: Here are San Francisco’s cheapest and priciest neighborhoods for renters

“On the other hand, the combination of unfriendly regulatory environment and anti-growth sentiment among current residents, along with disincentives for housing turnover, prevent enough increase in the supply of housing to relieve the affordability pressure we are facing,” Hepp said.

“In order to ensure our economic growth maintains the pace and we retain the talent and innovative spirit, we have to seriously address the fact that only two in 10 households can afford a home in the Bay Area,” she said.

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