Housing Affordability

Worsened more than 1 percent from
2016 to 2017

How are we doing?

Housing received a thumbs-down because even though the county’s housing affordability index stayed the same from 2016 to 2017, it continues to be worse than the California state average. San Diego County is also greatly lacking in the number of units needed to meet our growing demand with only half of the units needed projected to be completed by 2020. In addition, about 40% of homeowners and 57% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The median single-family housing price in San Diego County increased by 6.5% from 2016 to 2017. See more information.

In the first quarter of 2018, the San Diego County housing affordability index was about 5% lower than the state average, meaning fewer people can afford to purchase housing in San Diego as compared to the state as a whole. From 2016 to 2017, San Diego’s housing affordability index was unchanged with an average of 26% of households having a higher income than the estimated minimum to qualify for a loan for a median-valued home. Learn more about the California Association of Realtor’s Housing Affordability Index.

Data Source: California Association of Realtors, Housing Affordability Index – Traditional, 2018; California Association of Realtors, Housing Affordability Index – Traditional Methodology, 2018

Why is it important?

  • High housing costs affect our economy by limiting disposable income that residents would otherwise spend back into the economy, making our region less competitive against other metropolitan regions in attracting and retaining businesses and a talented workforce.
  • Low housing affordability can drive people to live in less expensive areas farther away from jobs and shopping areas, increasing commuting times, traffic, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

San Diego County's 6.5% increase in single-family home prices from 2016 to 2017 was lower than many other major urban counties in California and lower than the state average of 8%.

Data Source: California Association of Realtors, Current Sales & Price Statistics, 2018

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2017

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016

About 40% of homeowners with mortgages and 57% of renters in San Diego County spend more than 30% of their income on housing. This is about 2 percentage points higher than the overall California average.

The number of San Diego County housing permits issued in areas with homes making less than 120% of the area median income (AMI) are significantly lower than “Above Moderate” areas. Homes in “Above Moderate” areas are projected to need 730 (1%) additional permits to meet housing demand. In contrast, homes in “Very Low” and “Low” AMI areas will need 31,810 (87%) and 21,817 (79%) more permits to meet their projected housing demand. Read the full report.

Note: Very Low, Low, Moderate and Above Moderate refer to income levels based on Regional Housing Needs Allocation Income Categories.

Data Source: San Diego Regional Center of Commerce, Appendix: Housing Scorecard and Dashboard Methodology, 2017

Current and Projected Permit Completion

(San Diego County, 2010-2020)

City Units Allocated Current Permits Issued Project Completions
Coronado 50 278 437 874%
Lemon Grove 309 383 602 195%
Vista 1,374 1,529 2,403 175%
San Marcos 4,183 2,952 4,639 111%
La Mesa 1,722 998 1,568 91%
Carlsbad 4,999 2,471 3,883 78%
Chula Vista 12,861 5,927 9,314 72%
Imperial Beach 254 98 154 61%
San Diego 88,096 28,504 44,792 51%
County-wide 161,980 51,084 80,281 50%
Encinitas 2,353 685 1,076 46%
National City 1,863 446 701 38%
Escondido 4,1248 830 1,304 31%
Santee 3,660 692 1,087 30%
Poway 1,253 220 346 28%
Del Mar 61 7 17 27%
Unincorporated County 22,412 3,757 5,904 26%
Ocenside 6,210 1,042 1,637 26%
Solana Beach 340 27 42 12%
El Cajon 5,805 238 374 6%

According to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Housing Scorecard, the county is on pace to produce only 50% of the units needed to accommodate projected future population growth. Only four of the county’s 18 cities are planning enough units to meet housing needs: Coronado, Lemon Grove, San Marcos and Vista. Unfortunately, many cities do not have plans for building any units in the lower income categories

Data Source: San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, SANDAG

  Idea for Change

San Diegans must work together to address our region’s housing crisis. Housing and infill development has a positive impact on our region by providing affordable, stable housing to our residents in areas that are close to where they live, work and play. This improves public health, decreases greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and generates economic benefits. However, housing developments are many times controversial topics that may be opposed by some community members. Cities, agencies, developers, and community groups can cut across these divisions by creating forums for dialogue, education and communication about the range of housing needed for San Diego’s changing and growing population. For more information, check out Housing You Matters, a regional, nonpartisan coalition focused on informing stakeholders on the importance of an increased housing supply.

  Bright Spot

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is proposing new, less-restrictive zoning rules for live-work housing developments to help the region increase housing supply, reduce commuter traffic and achieve climate action goals. Live-work housing currently is available only in a limited number of city neighborhoods, but the plan is to add many part of downtown, Hillcrest, South Park and City Heights. Last year, as part of the Mayor’s Housing SD Plan, the city loosened rules for adding granny flats, streamlined environmental reviews for some housing proposals and expedited the approval of projects that include affordable units.

  What are we measuring?

We measure housing affordability by tracking the California Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Index, which measures the percentage of households that can afford a median home price at the national average mortgage rate with a standard 20% down payment and typical monthly costs (taxes, mortgage, insurance). We also track year-over-year change in median single-family home price and the percentage of households paying more than 30% of their income on housing. Lastly, we look at San Diego’s housing supply by tracking current and projected housing permit completion. Learn more about the data.