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Rising home prices hamper job recruitment in Orange County

Rising home prices hamper job recruitment in Orange County

Nicole McMackin, president of Irvine Technology Corp., is one of many Orange County employers who struggles with recruiting and retaining top talent due in part to Orange County’s high housing costs. The result is many employees either face long commutes and/or work from home — or telecommute from out of state.

Editor’s note: This is the third in an occasional series on the housing shortage in Orange County.

Amanda Woods was a ticking time bomb.

Almost eight months of house hunting and more than 60 offers had failed to yield anything as Woods’ pregnancy progressed while she and her husband lived in her parents’ Westminster home.

Cash-wielding buyers bidding above sellers’ asking prices kept Woods and her husband, Bryan, from building their nest.

“I told my husband, ‘I’m not having this baby at my parents’ house.’ No way,” said Woods, 31. She then told her real estate agent, “If we don’t find a house this weekend, we’re going to Texas.”

And that’s what they did.

Bryan, 33, found an apartment and a new job in the Dallas suburbs within two weeks. It took just four days more to find a two-story brick house on a cul-de-sac in the suburb of McKinney, Texas, that cost less than half what the couple would have paid for a smaller home in Orange County.

“It was way, way, way easier than in California,” said Woods, who persuaded her employer, an Orange County-based technology staffing and services firm called Irvine Technology Corp., to let her keep her job and work remotely. “We didn’t have to fight with anybody. It was perfect.”

In Orange County, runaway home prices and escalating rents are making it tougher these days for local companies to hire and retain young workers like Bryan and Amanda Woods, employers and staff recruiters say.

And even when workers can be found, employers often have to pay more to offset the costs of their housing or long commutes.

Increasingly, Orange County employers are hiring out-of-state employees who telecommute from such far-flung places as Georgia, Oregon and Texas.

“Housing prices are astronomical,” said Nicole McMackin, president of Irvine Technology Corp., Woods’ employer. “Even though the large companies pay 10 percent to 15 percent more than surrounding areas, it’s not making up for the (higher) costs.”

Some of McMackin’s employees spend 11/2 hours on the road driving to work from homes in Glendale, Temecula and El Segundo.

“They can’t afford the rates out here. They just can’t,” she said. “So they have to commute.”

More housing needed

Two recent reports have called for more homebuilding in Orange County and throughout the state to help curb soaring home prices and provide housing for a growing workforce.

• The state Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a study on March 17 saying developers needed to boost homebuilding by 100,000 units a year in California, bringing statewide construction to at least 200,000 units annually.

The report said Orange County needs to step up homebuilding by 7,000 units a year, bringing total annual construction to at least 17,000 annually – a pace not seen since the late 1980s.

The Orange County Register – News Headlines : Real Estate News