Growth Exceeds New Housing in San Diego County: Census Data

From 2010 to 2020, San Diego County saw an overall population growth of 6.6% while the growth in housing units was 5.5%

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The latest census data unveiled this week shows San Diego County’s population growth is far exceeding the growth of new housing units.

“Each year since 2004, the shortfall in housing has grown, and at this point we’re approximately 140,000 housing units short in the region of San Diego to stabilize the market,” said Stephen Russell, CEO & President of the San Diego Housing Federation.

Russell said since 2004, San Diego’s average housing need has been about 16,000 housing units per year, but in recent years the area hasn’t even produced half as much.

According to the census which compares data from 2010 to 2020, San Diego County saw an overall population growth of 6.6%, while the growth in housing units was 5.5%.

Here’s the breakdown of the growth of housing units in local cities, according to the census.

City% GrowthCity% Growth
Carlsbad6.9%National City5.5
Chula Vista9.9Oceanside4.6
El Cajon2.5San Diego6.4
Encinitas2.6San Marcos10.8
Imperial Beach2.3Vista5.9
La Mesa-0.4----
2020 Census Data

While most cities in San Diego County saw an increase in the number of housing units, every jurisdiction with the exception of the city of San Diego, Imperial Beach, Oceanside, Vista and National City saw an increase in population that exceeded the number of those units.

While the census data shows the city of La Mesa had a -0.4% decrease in housing, Assistant City Manager Carlo Tomaino says based on local building permit data provided by the state, La Mesa actually added 859 housing units, a 3% increase.

Russell said the overall housing shortfall is part of a housing dynamic, whereby in many cases, properties are being bought by investors and rented at higher rates.

People are then moving into those homes paying the higher rents and displacing those who had paid the lower rents.

In the end, it’s the poorest who are impacted.

“The impact is greatest on lower-income families who are paying more than half of their income on rent as it is, and so when housing is not available that they can afford, they either double up, triple up, move out of the region or fall into homelessness,” said Russell.

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