Crisis causes costly living in SD

Homes in San Diego are becoming increasingly scarce. Photo courtesy of @OliverGraf360/Twitter

Low supply of housing units results in high prices for USD students to live off campus

Lilyana Espinoza | News Editor | The USD Vista

One of the perks of the University of San Diego is students’ ability to live minutes away from the beach. However, with the current San Diego housing crisis, dreams of living at the beach may be harder to obtain.

According to KPBS, the average rent in San Diego has reached an all-time high of almost $2,000 a month, making housing for students financially difficult. Myapartmentmap.com gives further detail to say that rent around $2,000 a month would typically be enough for a two-bedroom apartment.

USD students have dealt with  the stress of the housing crisis while trying to find a place to live during their academic years. Senior Sarah Ellias reported that even last year, finding housing was very difficult for her and her roommates.

“It took months to find an affordable home in the neighborhood that we wanted to be in,” Ellias said. “Last year we were looking to live in Mission Beach and were struggling to find a place. There were only three of us at [that] time. We did end up finding an apartment in our budget, but it was unfurnished and honestly of questionable cleanliness.”

Many students who live off campus are aware of the crisis, especially when paying their rent month-to-month.

“I think that the housing shortage makes sense due to the demand to live in ‘America’s Finest City,’” Ellias said. “It is still unfortunate however, and I know a lot of us students feel the impacts of higher rents.”

Ellias currently lives in a five-bedroom house located in Mission Beach with six roommates. She reported the total rent of the house to be about $4700 a month.

Dr. Alan Gin, Associate Professor of Economics at USD, recognized that the economics of supply and demand is the problem.

“There is a lot of demand for housing in San Diego, but the supply is not increasing enough to meet that demand,” Gin said.

Gin found that short-term rentals of units solely for vacation rentals play a role in why San Diego housing prices are so high.

“A lot of units are being taken off of the market in terms of these short-term vacation rentals, so people that have been buying housing and even buying apartment buildings have been using them and renting them out to people who are here short term,” Gin said.

Mission Valley, filled with apartment rentals, is a popular place close to campus where students live during their academic year. Photo courtesy of @umpktmag/Twitter

Gin said that people have realized that they can make more profit by using their houses or apartments as short-term rentals, rather than renting to long-term tenants, especially at the beach.

“This is hurting USD students particularly in the beach areas,” Gin said. “Short-term vacation rentals are really popular in the beach area — for example Pacific Beach — where a lot of USD students like to live.”

With many potential units taken off the market, it becomes more difficult for students looking to rent a house at the beach that suits their needs and budgets.

“Some people estimate that just in the City of San Diego itself, about 5,000 to 10,000 units are these short-term vacation rentals,” Gin said. “If those were back on the market, that would help in terms of places to live being available to both students and other people.”

Junior Alicia Taylor talked about her experience with her roommates trying to find a place to live in San Diego.

“We knew we wanted to live in Mission Beach, but the quality of the houses compared with the prices was very asymmetrical,” Taylor said. “We looked for a few months and kind of figured out that it wasn’t going to get any better, so we settled for a smaller place with a high price. We didn’t feel like we had many options, particularly with wanting a rental term of nine months.”

Taylor reported that her current housing includes two bedrooms and one bath for three roommates.

“We definitely wanted something with a little more ‘living’ space,” Taylor said. “For example, a bigger eating area or a bigger living room. Three bedrooms would’ve been ideal for the three of us but we quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen.”

The housing crisis also affects those students who wish to stay in San Diego after graduation. Although only a junior, Taylor is considering remaining in San Diego when her time at USD is over.

“After graduation, I’m not sure where I’ll be, but I’d love to stay in San Diego,” Taylor said. “[I’m] not sure how I’m going to approach the housing situation, considering I hate being apart of the ‘rent culture.’  Ideally, I could find some people to come together and put a mortgage down on a house, so we wouldn’t be losing our rent money every month — but that’s probably a long shot.”

Gin pointed out that short-term renters also have an effect on neighborhoods for those living or wanting to live as long-term renters or permanent homeowners.

“The other argument against short-term rentals is they really disrupt neighborhoods,” Gin said. “You don’t have long-term renters there, so you don’t get kids in elementary schools, you don’t get families there; rather, you get people in there that are coming for one weekend at a time or just a couple of days. There are problems with things like noise and trash. Short-term renters don’t take as good care of homes as long-term people.”

Short-term rentals, however, are not the sole cause of the San Diego housing crisis. There has also been very little construction to meet the demand for places to live.

Currently, the San Diego City Council is making an effort to build more affordable housing with their approval of $125 million for construction, according to NBC 7 San Diego.

However, these more affordable units will take years to build. For students who wish to stay in San Diego and are graduating within the next few years, affordable rent and mortgages will be difficult to obtain. This will make finding roommates the most ideal option for affording housing.

For the time being, the housing demand is much greater than the supply available, which not only affects USD students, but also  others looking for reasonable long-term options. Time will tell what actions will work best for increasing the supply of homes in San Diego.

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