How Are We Doing?

Housing received a neutral because the Housing Affordability Index increased but the percent of San Diegans burdened by housing costs also increased slightly.

The Housing Affordability Index for San Diego County, which measures median household income relative to the income needed to purchase a median-priced house, increased from 24% in December 2018 to 29% in December 2019. An increase in the rate means that more 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.


Equally positive and negative changes from 2018 to 2019

In the fourth quarter of 2019, the percent of people who could afford to purchase a home in San Diego was 2% below the state average. From 2018 to 2019, San Diego County's Housing Affordability Index increased from 24% to 29%, meaning that more people could afford to purchase a house in the county.

The median single-family home price in San Diego County increased by 6% or $36,500 from 2018 to 2019. Across California, median single-family home prices increased by 10% 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 81% of its housing needs for above moderate income households but only 10% for very low, low, and moderate income households. Overall, San Diego County has met 37% 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 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, a healthy environment, and is an equitable place for all San Diegans to grow and prosper.

  • 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


As part of City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Housing SD Plan, the San Diego City Council introduced zero minimum parking space requirements for affordable multi-family residential development in Transit Priority Areas. This policy is designed to increase the supply of affordable housing and encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation. As a co-benefit, it helps the City of San Diego move closer to reaching its climate action goals.

In July 2020, San Diego's City Council approved to place a $900 million housing bond on the November ballot. Should it be passed by voters, the measure would fund 7500 homes to address housing affordability and homelessness in San Diego. The housing bond will be paid for by an increase in property taxes of about $6 per month for an average San Diego homeowner.


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 three bills (AB 1486, AB 1763 and AB 329) signed by Governor Gavin Newsom
  • Supported parking reform in City of San Diego in order to lower the cost of construction
  • Launched Homes for San Diegans to support the $900 million housing bond measure


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 University of San Diego and San Diego State University are examining factors such as crime rates, property values, and neighborhood opposition to affordable housing in San Diego County through surveys and in-depth interviews. This study will shed 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. It will also point to possible ways of reframing future affordable housing projects to increase community support. 

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.