In summary

In the new episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.” CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon catch up with former podcast co-host Matt Levin on the homebuying process and review the zaniest California housing stories of 2021.

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Why not end the year on a positive note? 

Matt Levin, a former “Gimme Shelter” co-host and now a reporter for Marketplace on NPR, made a surprise appearance on the podcast’s last episode of 2021 to announce some good news.

While California’s statewide median home price hit a record $800,000 this year, and Sacramento County’s median broke $510,000 (a 16% hike from 2020), Matt bought his first home – a three-bedroom, two-bath single-family home in Sacramento’s Tahoe Park.

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon talked with Matt about how he turned this oft-discussed California housing dream into reality.

The pandemic was mostly responsible for the move: Working from home with his fiance highlighted the need for more space, while the pause on student loan payments allowed them to save enough to afford a down payment.

“The cold, hard answer is we didn’t put 20% down. If it was 20%, it would have been very, very, very difficult,” he said. “But, you know, we’re in our late 30s. We have savings and so we could afford 10% down together and just eat the private mortgage insurance. And the actual monthly mortgage payments are, shockingly, very akin to what we were paying in rent.”

If someone is lucky enough to afford it, should they become a homeowner too? 

“For anyone who, you know, lived through the Great Recession, it’s like, Jesus Christ, am I buying at the peak? The peakiest peak of the housing market? Which could totally totally be the case. But you know, screw it, we got wild turkeys now,” he joked.

To celebrate the year-end podcast, we reviewed the four zaniest California housing stories of 2021 to award the Avocado of the Year. 

First, the takeover of gated communities in Buenos Aires by giant rodents. Next, an anime version of the debate over whether upzoning causes gentrification. Third, a proposal to tear down a parking structure to build affordable housing in Santa Monica, and the ire it has inspired. And lastly, Dormzilla — the largest college dorm in history, drawn up by billionaire donor Charles Munger for UC Santa Barbara – where 94% of the single-occupancy rooms would be windowless.

Thanks to the nearly 300 listeners who voted on the Twitter poll, Dormzilla took the prize.

“You get your own bedroom in Dormzilla! You get your own bedroom. Sign me up,” Matt said.

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Manuela is our former Housing Reporter whose stories focused on the political dynamics and economic and racial inequities that contribute to the housing crisis in California and its potential solutions....