Rising Rents Leave Tenants Struggling

Written by Posted On Sunday, 08 January 2006 16:00

It's not just homebuyers who are being hit with the high cost of living in San Diego, California. Those in the rental market are struggling to keep up with rents.

According to a 2005 report, a San Diego County family must earn $22.27 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the county. That means that local renting families must have 3.3 minimum wage earners working full-time or one full-time wage earner working 132 hours per week just to be able to afford a modest two-bedroom unit.

The report, Out of Reach 2005, was released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition -- a housing advocacy group in Washington, D.C. The study determines, based on a 40-hour week, 52 weeks per year, the hourly wage that a family needs to earn to afford rent and utilities in private housing markets across the country. San Diego County ranked eighth in affordability. The report indicates that the average renter hourly wage is only $13.71; that's nearly $9.00 less than the hourly wage needed to rent even a modest unit.

"It is impossible for those individuals who earn the lowest wages to find affordable housing," says Tom Scott, Executive Director of the San Diego Housing Federation.

"This report clearly illustrates how extreme the need for affordable housing in our community is."

Adding to the housing-affordability dilemma is an issue that is heating up in San Diego. Condo-conversions have been taking place in record numbers. Developers are converting hundreds of apartment projects into condominiums.

The condo-conversion craze has even sparked litigation in Superior Court and is threatening to halt some conversion projects. At issue is whether condo-conversion projects approved by the San Diego City Council should have been subject to Environmental Impact Reports in order to be in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

"We're trying to work out a happy medium. There are many, [Mayor Jerry Sanders included], who do not believe that a blanket Environmental Impact Report is necessary for a specific condo-conversion project. So there has to be something that we can work out in the middle to identify issues that may exist," says Fred Sainz, Director of Communications for San Diego Mayor Sanders.

Scott says the problem with condo-conversions is that no new units of housing are being added to the market and typically the renter has to move because the purchase price of the newly-converted condo is not within budget range.

It leaves renters, on poor incomes, scrambling to find affordable housing.

"It's pretty bleak; 38 percent of the households are considered low income by Sandag, that means they earn 80 percent or less of the median income," says Scott.

Scott says what's needed is more funding for subsidies for low-income families and "freeing up a lot more land for the building of apartments and condominiums because if you add to the housing stock it does freeze up rents. If you build them in significant numbers it will put some downward pressure on rents because people can afford to buy … ."

San Diego is not the only city dealing with housing-affordability issues. San Francisco is the most expensive city in the nation for renters. Throughout the country the top ten most expensive States for renters along with their housing wages are:

  • Hawaii: $22.30

  • California: $22.09

  • Massachusetts: $21.88

  • New Jersey: $20.87

  • New York: $19.73

  • Maryland: $19.62

  • Connecticut: $19.30

  • Rhode Island: $18.42

  • New Hampshire: $17.58

  • Alaska: $17.40
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Phoebe Chongchua

Phoebe Chongchua is an award-winning journalist, an author, customer service trainer/speaker, and founder of Setting the Service Standard, a customer service training and consulting program offered by Live Fit Enterprises (LFE) based in San Diego, California. She is the publisher of Live Fit Magazine, an online publication that features information on real estate/finance, physical fitness, travel, and philanthropy. Her company, LFE, specializes in media services including marketing, PR, writing, commercials, corporate videos, customer service training, and keynotes & seminars. Visit her magazine website: www.LiveFitMagazine.com.

Phoebe's articles, feature stories, and columns appear in various publications including The Coast News, Del Mar Village Voice, Rancho Santa Fe Review, and Today's Local News in San Diego, as well as numerous Internet sites. She holds a California real estate license. Phoebe worked for KGTV/10News in San Diego as a Newscaster, Reporter and Community Affairs Specialist for more than a decade. Phoebe's writing is also featured in Donald Trump's book: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures. She is the author of If the Trash Stinks, TAKE IT OUT! 14 Worriless Principles for Your Success.

Contact Phoebe at (858) 259-3646 or phoebe@livefitmagazine.com. Visit PhoebeChongchua.com for more information.

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