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North County Leaders Use Summit To Explore Ways To Solve Housing Crunch

Real estate signs advertise the sale of three houses in a row in Encinitas in...

Photo by Associated Press

Above: Real estate signs advertise the sale of three houses in a row in Encinitas in San Diego County, July 13, 2006.

Suburban cities in San Diego’s North County need to let go of their small-town identities if the region is to meet its housing needs. That’s one of the conclusions of the North County Housing Summit held Thursday.

Several hundred North County leaders met at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido to look for ways to address the growing housing affordability problem.

Regional planners estimate San Diego County will grow from 3.3 million to 4 million people by 2050, and finding places to build housing for them all will be a challenge. North County will not grow as fast as the county as a whole, Jim Miller of SANDAG said. But the number of houses in North County has to increase by 26 percent in the next three decades to meet the needs of the growing population.

The majority of businesses in North County already report that employees can’t find housing they can afford near their work.

Sprawl Versus Infill

Keynote speaker Mark Schniepp of California Economic Forecast said Ventura is a case study of a community that put limits on growth and development to preserve agriculture and open space and experienced serious job losses as companies left the region.

Erik Bruvold, CEO of the San Diego North Economic Development Council said smaller cities will need to be open to a changing identity in order to grow.

“I think the suburban cities up here in North County still have to make that transition to looking to new infill development, and really the kind of denser housing that we’re going to need,” he said. “That’s going to be a shift in the way they see themselves and the way they do business with developers.”

Housing Generations

Real Estate consultant Nathan Moeder of London Moeder Advisors said planners estimate more than 81 percent of the population growth in San Diego over the next three decades will be people aged 65 and older.

“And the implication of that,” he said, “is that population is going to age in place. They are going to stay in their house, and they’re not going to sell their homes for millennials to move up, or the next generation to move into those homes to raise their families. So the housing market is frozen."

Moeder said people 65 and older do not want to move into two story homes. He said most of the urban housing that developers have built recently is multifamily housing. He said young people may be happy with that as a starter home, but as millennials get into their 30s and start to raise children, he said they want a single-family home, however small.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Harmony Grove Village, a new housing development in North County, July 17th 2018

Housing Equity

Mary Lydon is executive director of Housing You Matters, a broad-based, nonpartisan coalition focused on lowering the cost of building homes in the San Diego region.

“There’s a great challenge that if we don’t figure out our housing from a supply perspective, and affordability perspective then it is going to greatly erode our economy,” she said. “We have got to find solutions for all different income levels, from the homeless to low income, middle income, higher income: we have to have housing for all these income levels to have a prosperous economy, one that provides equity and sustainability.”

New development in San Diego has provided more than enough homes for high-income earners, and only a fraction of the housing needed for middle and low-income earners. Moeder defended the practice, saying that if high-income earners don’t have new houses to move into, they will move into existing neighborhoods and gentrify them, pushing middle-income earners out.

Moeder said one out of three home sales in North County is paid for with all cash.

Subsidized Affordable Housing

James Schmid, CEO of Chelsea Investment Corp., a developer of subsidized affordable housing for people who make 80 percent or less of the area median income, said one of the ways to keep costs down is to limit parking spaces. He said a single affordable unit could cost in the range of $385,000 to build, of which about $100,000 is a government subsidy.

Suburban cities in San Diego’s North County need to let go of their small-town identities if the region is to meet its housing needs. That’s one of the conclusions of the North County Housing Summit held Thursday.

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