How Are We Doing?

Housing received a thumbs down because the Housing Affordability Index decreased and median single-family home prices increased. 

The Housing Affordability Index for San Diego County, which measures median household income relative to the income needed to purchase a median-priced house, decreased from 29% in December 2019 to 26% in December 2020. A decrease in the rate means that fewer people can afford to purchase a house in San Diego County.

The percentage of families that spend over 30% of their income on rent or mortgage payments in San Diego County has remained consistently high and is similar to levels in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Want to know more about what we're measuring?

More details regarding how we are doing in the past ten years on housing are described in this 10-year trend analysis conducted by the Center for Sustainable Energy.

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Fewer people can afford to purchase a house in 2020

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the percentage of people who could afford to purchase a home in San Diego was 1% below the state average. From 2019 to 2020, San Diego County's Housing Affordability Index decreased from 29% to 26% of people, meaning that fewer people could afford to purchase a house in the county.

The median single-family home price in San Diego County increased by 11% or $75,000 from 2019 to 2020. Across California, median single-family home prices increased by 17% over the same period.

In 2018, 39% of homeowners with mortgages in San Diego County paid over 30% of their income on housing.

Renting a house or apartment in California is expensive. Since 2016, 57% of people in San Diego County pay over 30% of their income on rent. The median rent value for San Diego County in 2018 was $1,668 which is 58% higher than national median values. These trends are similar to Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

All local governments in California are required to establish housing plans to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. One significant component of the housing plan is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which determines the affordability level and number of new homes a region needs in order to meet anticipated housing demand. San Diego County, along with most counties in California, is close to or has met the allocation requirements for above moderate income homes, but few counties have met their allocation for very low, low or moderate income homes. San Diego has met 92% of its housing needs for above moderate income households, but only 12% for very low, low, and moderate income households. Overall, San Diego County has met 45% of its housing needs. More details on San Diego County’s housing need allocations can be found in this ten year trend analysis prepared by the Center for Sustainable Energy.


Lack of affordable housing is one factor of a complex set of social conditions that increase homelessness in the region. Each January, San Diego County conducts a Point in Time Count (PITC) of the number of individuals experiencing homelessness. During the 2020 PITC, 7,658 people were counted as experiencing homelessness. Black residents disproportionately experience homelessness in San Diego, representing only 4.7% of the population, but 21% of the homeless population. To access more data on homelessness, check out the data systems and dashboards created by the Regional Taskforce on Homelessness.

Why is Housing Important?

High quality of life means the region boasts a thriving economy and a healthy environment accessible to all in the community.

  • Environment: Prioritizing the development of affordable housing in high-density urban areas near public transit systems can reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Economy: San Diego Housing Commission report estimates the impact that high housing costs have on the economy. By limiting disposable income that residents would otherwise spend back into the economy, the high cost of housing makes the region less competitive against other metropolitan regions in attracting and retaining businesses and a talented workforce. The local economy loses an estimated $2.4 billion annually because of the disposable income that gets diverted to housing costs. The region also loses an estimated $73 billion and 275,000 new jobs due to foregone construction of housing that would have been created to meet the actual housing needs.
  • Equity: As outlined in the California Housing Partnership’s 2019 Statewide Housing Needs Report, low-income households are disproportionately burdened by the lack of affordable housing in the state. Among the lowest income households in California, 76% spend more than half of their income towards housing costs.

Regional Response


Housing Element Organization has identified six goals to address the housing needs in the city of San Diego for the next nine years (2021-2029). The goals are:

  1. Facilitate the construction of quality housing
  2. Improve the existing housing stock
  3. Provide new affordable housing
  4. Enhance the quality of life
  5. Exemplify sustainable development and growth
  6. Publicize housing needs and resources 

In July 2020, San Diego's City Council approved placing a $900 million housing bond on the November ballot. The measure would have funded 7,500 homes to address housing affordability and homelessness in San Diego. The measure did not get enough votes from voters.


San Diego Housing Federation (SDHF) provided an array of trainings, advocacy and networking events to engage the community and influence policy. For example, SDHF, among other impactful activities:

  • Supported bills such as AB 2345 and AB 434
  • Supported Homeless-Experience Advocacy and Leadership (HEAL) Network


Back in 2017, The Regional Task Force on Homelessness, merged with the regional Continuum of Care (CoC) with the goal of ending homelessness in the San Diego region through strategic planning, research and informed policy. They leverage data and technology systems to coordinate care among service providers and educate policymakers and the public on homelessness.

University of San Diego and San Diego State University Research on Housing and Homelessness

The lack of affordable housing in California has contributed to an increase in homelessness across the state. Yet, community resistance to the construction of affordable housing continues to increase the costs of building and, thus, reduces the supply of affordable housing in the region.

A team of researchers from the University of San Diego (USD) and San Diego State University (SDSU) examined factors such as crime rates, property values, and neighborhood opposition to affordable housing in San Diego County through surveys and in-depth interviews. The Community Perceptions of Affordable Housing in San Diego study sheds light on the factors that are at the core of NIMBYism (NIMBY is an acronym for “Not In My BackYard”) by collecting data from neighborhoods where affordable housing has recently been built. This study found no evidence supporting the claim that affordable housing complexes increase crime and decrease property values.

USD and SDSU research group: Dr. Mike Williams (USD, Political Science); Dr. Kate DeConinck (USD, Theology and Religious Studies); Vicenta Martinez Govea (USD, Undergraduate Researcher); Dr. Mounah Abdel-Samad (SDSU, School of Public Affairs); Dr. Brian Adams (SDSU, Political Science); and, Rebecca Riddle (SDSU, Graduate Researcher)

What Are We Measuring?

We measure housing affordability by tracking the California Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Index. This index measures the percentage of households that can afford a median home priced at the national average mortgage rate with a standard 20% down payment and typical monthly costs (taxes, mortgage, insurance). We track year-over-year changes in median single-family home prices and the percentage of households paying more than 30% of their income on housing. Additionally, we track San Diego County’s progress on meeting its housing needs through the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Learn more about the data.