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IN-DEPTH: Californians Are Still Flocking to the Lone Star State, Here’s Why

IN-DEPTH: Californians Are Still Flocking to the Lone Star State, Here’s Why

A general view of the Texas state flag during an event in San Antonio, Texas, on March 30, 2023. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Jana J. Pruet

Jana J. Pruet

11/25/2023

Updated: 11/28/2023

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The California exodus continues, and for the second year in a row, Texas claimed the top relocation spot for Californians, according to the latest state-to-state migration Census data.
In 2022, more than 817,000 residents left the Golden State; of those, more than 102,000 moved to Texas, down slightly from 107,000 the year before.
The metro areas of Texas have experienced significant growth over the past three years, and for the first time, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area has become the most populated in the state with an estimated 8,060,528, according to data released this month by the Texas Demographic Center.
The state’s booming growth has pushed the population to over 30 million, making it the second most populated state in the nation behind California, which has about 39 million.
About two-thirds of Texas’ residents live in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, known as the Texas Triangle.
The Epoch Times spoke with several families who said they relocated to North Texas for a number of reasons, including family values, safety issues, lower taxes, cost of housing, and proximity to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

‘Never in My Wildest Dreams’

Christina Houtz, 33, and her husband were both born and raised in California, but in August 2021, they joined the exodus from California.
She said they had no intention of ever fleeing the Golden State, where their close-knit family remains.
“We have big families, and we’re super close with all our family,” Ms. Houtz told The Epoch Times. “So, it was never in my wildest dreams that we would ever leave the state or be away from them.”
But then, “COVID happened.”
The young mother was pregnant with her third child when the pandemic struck in 2020. Her three-year-old was attending a private Christian school in Orange County when the governor began issuing lockdowns and mask mandates.
“I got the email where they said, as of Monday, we’re going to have to start masking the kids,” Ms. Houtz said. “At that point, I was like, nope, I’m not masking my children.”
As parents, she and her husband knew they had to do everything possible to protect their children from “how crazy the world was getting.”
That’s when they decided it was time to find a new state to call home. In 2021, the couple sold their Southern California home, packed up their things, and headed east—to Texas.
“We really honestly moved because we felt like our state was closing in on us,” Ms. Houtz explained. “I was starting to feel panicked, and I felt stressed all the time.”
They settled in the small North Texas town of Roanoke.
Oak Street is a popular dining and shopping destination in downtown Roanoke, Texas. (Jana J. Pruet/The Epoch Times)

Oak Street is a popular dining and shopping destination in downtown Roanoke, Texas. (Jana J. Pruet/The Epoch Times)

While there are some things they miss about their former community, overall, the Lone Star State has been a welcome change for the California natives.
Ms. Houtz said she likes the “whole vibe” and the pride that native Texans have in their state.
“There are so many American flags everywhere,” she said. “There’s so much patriotism.”
“I love driving on the freeway and seeing cows and horses on the side of the road,” Ms. Houtz continued. “I think it’s so beautiful. And it can be a slower pace out here, but you can also stay busy.”
However, the self-described conservative mother of four kids, ranging from seven months to seven years old, said they have also faced some of the same issues they experienced back home in California.
The couple had planned to send their children to public school, but after hearing rumors of woke ideology taking place in local and nearby school districts, they opted to home-school.
“I just really don’t want any influence like that on my children whatsoever,” Ms. Houtz explained.

‘Breath of Fresh Air’

Like the Houtz family, Chad and Debbie Blomgren left Livermore, California, for Roanoke, Texas.
The Blomgrens, originally from Minnesota, had lived in the East Bay Area of San Francisco for about five years when they were offered the opportunity to relocate.
They could head back to Minnesota, where much of their family lives, or they could move to Texas.
“To be honest, we were kind of done with winter,” Mr. Blomgren told The Epoch Times. “We opted for Texas.”
Mr. Blomgren said they loved the weather in California, the beauty of the state, and the wine, but they were not happy with the way the state was being run.
The couple explained that the cost of living and crime were increasing, and family values were decreasing.
About a year or so before COVID, Ms. Blomgren said they had recently purchased a new car. She had driven it to a shopping area and parked it off to the side of the main entrance in an effort to avoid getting door dings from other vehicles.
Ms. Blomgren said she was inside the store for less than 20 minutes when someone began paging the “owner of a black BMW” over the speaker. She went outside and discovered her car had been broken into, and it was no longer driveable. The passenger window was smashed in, the entire dash had been torn off, and the start button was yanked out—in broad daylight on a Tuesday afternoon.
“In California, with all their laws, they just don’t prosecute people like they used to,” Ms. Blomgren said, adding “most people” don’t bother locking their car doors because they will get busted in by thieves.
“Smash and grabs happen all the time,” Mr. Blomgren said.
If they had gone back home to Minnesota, they said they would have ended up facing many of the same issues they were hoping to leave behind in California.
In mid-2020, shortly after the pandemic started, they sold their home, and they made the move. At this point, California had already invoked tight lockdowns and mask mandates.
“It was just such a breath of fresh air coming to the DFW area,” Mr. Blomgren said. “It was unbelievable actually going from what we were in—that massive lockdown—to coming here, and you kind of just felt somewhat normal.”
There were some social distancing measures in place when they arrived in Texas, but “it was appropriate,” he added.
“Right before we left, it was getting so bad that they wanted you to wear a mask while you were outside walking your dog,” Ms. Blomgren said.
The empty nesters said Texans are friendly, but they still struggled at first with getting to know people in the community, which they said could be partly attributed to not having kids in school and working remotely.
“Our first neighbor that we met,” Mr. Blomgren said. “He came up to us—a lifetime Texan—and [Debbie] said, ‘I don’t know if you saw our license plates, but we’re from California.’”
“This gentleman, he’s probably in his late 60s, and he said, ‘Really nice to meet you. Glad you’re here, but don’t bring your [expletive] here.’
“He was sincerely genuine about it,” he continued. “So the first thing we had to do was get rid of those [license] plates.”
The Blomgrens also believe there’s a misconception that everyone from California is a liberal, adding that they are “probably more conservative”  than many Texans.
When they moved to California in 2016, they ended up buying a home that was more than 30 miles away from Mr. Blomgren’s office in San Francisco.
“We looked at a couple hundred homes,” Mr. Blomgren explained. “An 1,100 square foot home was offered for $1.1 to 1.2 million. And not a nice home, an old 1940s - 50s home. Some of them need a fair bit of work, and they all went for $200,000 to $300,000 over the asking price.”
The Livermore house that they sold in 2020 was later purchased for $500,000 more than they sold it for a couple of years earlier.
Not having a state income tax was another plus for the Blomgrens, who are in their mid-50s.
“[No] state income tax helped a lot for us in our peak earning years,” Mr. Blomgren said. “But property taxes are certainly much higher than they are in Minnesota. But even with high property taxes, we’re still much better off from a tax base than either California or Minnesota.”
Earlier this month, Texans overwhelmingly approved an $18 billion property tax relief measure. The amendment to the state constitution increased the homestead exemption to $100,000 from $40,000. The measure took effect immediately and will be reflected on homeowners’ 2023 property tax bill.

‘I Feel Free’

Joel Brand, 55, and his wife, both natives of California, moved to North Texas right before Christmas 2020.
“We actually decided in 2019 to move,” Mr. Brand told The Epoch Times.
The family of five lived about 30 miles each way between San Francisco and Napa Valley.
Mr. Brand, an insurance broker, said there were a number of reasons for moving out of California, including culture, taxes, poor infrastructure, school systems, and overall lack of kindness from others.
He said his family was treated like “the weirdos” in the neighborhood because they held conservative values.
When his youngest child, a son, was about seven or eight, he was “sucker punched” at school, Mr. Brand said. The student who hit him was an immigrant, and the school refused to notify the child’s parents.
The principal told the Brands that they “need to have compassion [for the boy] because of their [family’s] flight.” And that since both of the child’s parents work, it was not the child’s fault that he behaved the way he did.
Mr. Brand said the California lifestyle was not working for their family.
“We were just ready to leave, quite frankly,” he said. “The culture did not lend itself to calmness or kindness. It lends itself to anger. It’s just not the type of people that we are, and we truly accept anybody.
He said the state’s decriminalization laws have increased crime and driven officers out of law enforcement.
“I have a close friend of mine who is retiring from the San Francisco Police Department because of that,” Mr. Brand explained. “They don’t allow him to do his job.”
Shortly after making the move to Texas, the father and son were driving home from school, and his son randomly said something that confirmed the family’s decision to make Texas their new home.
“He said, ‘Dad, I just feel so free here,'” Mr. Brand said his son told him.
“‘I don’t feel people are judging me. There’s no bullying. I truly don’t believe that anyone is going to sucker punch me,’” he continued. “Yeah, kids tease, but it’s different. I feel protected, like if something happens, a repercussion is going to happen.
“I feel free.”
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Jana J. Pruet

Jana J. Pruet

Author

Jana J. Pruet is an award-winning investigative journalist. She covers news in Texas with a focus on politics, energy, and crime. She has reported for many media outlets over the years, including Reuters, The Dallas Morning News, and TheBlaze, among others. She has a journalism degree from Southern Methodist University. Send your story ideas to: jana.pruet@epochtimes.us

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