Local Need for Affordable Housing


By Ana Gomez Salcido

Photo/Ted Rufus Ross

San Diego has one of the smallest shares of low-rent units available compared to the rest of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, according to a new report released by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

This annual report highlights the growing demand for housing and tight supply nationwide, especially in large metropolitan areas.

The report finds that, nationwide, the number of units renting for $2,000 per month or more increased 97 percent in real terms between 2005 and 2015.

At the same time, the supply of units renting for less than $800 declined by 2 percent, with most of the loss occurring at the lowest rent levels.

The total number of units renting for less than $800 declined by over 260,000 from 2005 to 2015, a time when the overall rental stock increased by over 6.7 million units. The shift in the rental stock toward the high end is also clear from the 32 percent rise in real median asking rents since 2000.

Nearly half of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas posted absolute declines in their stocks of low-rent units (defined as having real gross rents under $800) between 2005 and 2015.

Metros with the largest losses in percentage terms included Austin, Denver, Portland, and Seattle, where supplies were down by a third or more. At the same time, 88 of the largest 100 metros reported declines in the shares of low-rent units. Among the markets with the smallest shares were San Diego, San Jose, and Washington, D.C., where under 10 percent of units rented for less than $800 in 2015.

“More than 11 million renter households paid more than half their incomes for housing in 2015, leaving little room to pay for life’s other necessities,” said Chris Herbert, the Center’s managing director.

According to a 2017 report released by the California Housing Partnership Corporation, San Diego County has a shortage of 142,000 affordable units for families currently paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent. And, since 2000, median rents in San Diego have increased 36 percent, while renter household incomes have only risen by 4 percent.

“We don’t have enough affordable housing for our community as a whole, but it especially impacts our homeless population because they don’t have much money to begin with,” said Deacon Jim Vargas, President and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages to La Prensa San Diego. “San Diego apartments are very expensive, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1700. And the combination of high rent and the lack of affordable housing is something very toxic. For example, the people that are just making the ends-meet are a couple of paychecks away of being on the streets themselves if something happens to them, like losing a job. And that’s something they would have never thought. That’s why it’s important to focus as a community on making available more affordable housing.”

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