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Wanna Fix San Diego's Housing Crisis? Start Here.

Catherine Green, VOICE OF SAN DIEGO

Thursday, February 5, 2015

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To understand the solutions to the high cost of housing in San Diego, it’s worth getting some facts on the table.
We looked at census data to find the number of new housing units added in San Diego County between the 1990, 2000 and 2010. In 1990 there was one housing unit for every 1.285 members of the labor force. By 2010, that had risen to 1.346 workers for every housing unit in the county. Even adjusting for the increase in labor force participation, between 2000 and 2010, we added about 20,000 fewer houses in the county when judged against increases in the local labor market.
So where did those workers go to sleep at night? Simply put, the failure to build enough in our county fueled demand for housing in southern Riverside County, and to an extent, Baja. Meanwhile prices closer to job centers rose, in an elegant demonstration that supply and demand can impact prices, geography matters and consumers will make trade-offs like a longer commute.
In a magic wand world, we would radically repurpose what are currently suburban properties in the parts of our county that have seen the most job growth. This is why policies that make it difficult to add housing in places like Torrey Pines or Sorrento Mesa are problematic. It isn’t to say that denser properties might not raise other problems. But without supply, our high housing costs and high cost of living is a feature, not a bug, of living in San Diego.
Erik Bruvold, president, National University System Institute for Policy Research