A person skates in front of new construction on 30th Street in San Diego's North Park neighborhood, Nov. 29, 2022. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Why this matters

San Diego’s housing shortage is a problem that has dogged city leaders for years, and it’s increasingly becoming a flash point for residents.

Nearly two in three San Diegans are considering moving out of the county, with most saying it’s too expensive to live here.

Those findings are part of a new survey that also found San Diegans have grown increasingly concerned about affordable housing, climate change, mental health and racial justice. The results came out just as the city of San Diego was ranked the most expensive place to live in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report. 

“Many San Diegans are questioning if they can remain in San Diego County due to the lack (of) affordable housing, inflation and the related high cost of living,” the survey says.

The Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego conducts quarterly polls of more than 500 residents across San Diego County, reflecting the racial and ethnic distribution of the region. The group tracks pocketbook issues and confidence in local institutions over time, and for the past four years, it has asked respondents to rate their issues of concern. 

This year, the institute is seeing heightened concern in several quality-of-life metrics, including housing, climate and mental health. A majority of San Diegans also said they were concerned about hunger and poverty, jobs that pay a living wage, wildfires and public safety — all of which landed on the list of top 10 issues. 

But the No. 1 concern that tops the list is homelessness — close to 60% of San Diegans said they were “alarmed” about the growing crisis, expressing the highest level of concern in the survey.

Homelessness is more visible in San Diego than ever before. Nearly twice as many San Diegans are losing their housing as those who manage to find it, and about 3,300 people citywide are sleeping outside every night. Meanwhile, people who want shelter in San Diego often can’t access it because the city’s shelter system remains more than 90% full.

Much of this crisis is fueled by a massive housing shortage. Half of San Diego’s housing supply are rental units and less than 1% are vacant, records show. The lack of availability has driven up rents by 15%, according to a study from the Southern California Rental Housing Association.

A spokesperson for Mayor Todd Gloria pointed to policy initiatives and programs that address some of the concerns highlighted in the survey, including investments in affordable housing and advocating for statewide mental health reform. Just last week, the city opened its second campsite for people experiencing homelessness.

“Obviously these issues are not exclusive to San Diego, but it’s validating to see that Mayor Gloria‘s top priorities align with San Diegans’ concerns,” said spokesperson Rachel Laing.

The survey also found the vast majority of San Diegans — 83% — said they have benefited from a nonprofit in the past year, ranging from arts and education to health and environment. And when it comes to promoting positive social change, the survey found residents trust nonprofits to act on their behalf more than government and business.

“Nonprofits play a vital role in supporting our quality of life in the region,” said Tessa Tinkler, director of research at The Nonprofit Institute.

“By understanding the essential role nonprofits play in our communities, we can better unite efforts, allocate resources strategically, and inspire collective action toward building a stronger, more equitable society for all in San Diego.”

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Cody Dulaney is an investigative reporter at inewsource focusing on social impact and government accountability. Few things excite him more than building spreadsheets and knocking on the door of people who refuse to return his calls. When he’s not ruffling the feathers of some public official, Cody...