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San Diego Falls Well Short Of 10-Year Housing Goals, But Sees Promising Growth

New housing under construction in downtown San Diego on May 28, 2020.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: New housing under construction in downtown San Diego on May 28, 2020.

A report released Tuesday on the housing needs of San Diego found that the region has fallen drastically short of housing production goals, with less than half the goal number of dwellings constructed in the past 10 years.

San Diego's 2020 Housing Inventory Annual Report points out glaring shortfalls but also notes incentives for builders in the city which could potentially see a rise in construction.

"We've built a lot of momentum over the past few years by implementing housing reforms to spur more construction, with a focus on affordable and permanent supportive units for low-income San Diegans struggling to make ends meet," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "Now we're starting to see promising progress with affordable housing production doubling in the city as builders take advantage of the new opportunities we created with our housing reforms."

Every eight years, the city is required to update its General Plan Housing Element as a pathway to reach its share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation as identified by the state with input from the San Diego Association of Governments.

Housing production in San Diego fell below the RHNA goals for the 2010- 2020 cycle with only 48% of the total needed units constructed. Last month, the City Council adopted the updated General Plan Housing Element in which the city laid out plans for the construction of more than 108,000 new housing units by 2029.

City leaders and staff are encouraged by the data trends in the 2020 Housing Inventory Annual Report — despite the housing shortfall of the last cycle — which show that new housing initiatives might be working. New construction starts, which are measured by the number of building permits issued, saw the second-highest number between 2010 and 2019, with permits for 5,221 units. Affordable housing production also increased citywide, doubling from 2018 numbers to a total of 940 affordable housing units.

"The annual housing inventory report, which first began in 2018, is important to set a baseline so that trends become evident," said Mike Hansen, director of the city's planning department. "This year's report shows early success for our recent initiatives. However, it's important the city continues to adopt new housing reforms to meet new, ambitious housing targets and address all of San Diego's housing needs."

The city recently made multiple amendments to its municipal code aimed at increasing housing production. The amendments will help development on properties with development permits, allow the development of affordable housing on church sites, and permit retirement communities in zones that allow multi-family housing.

Other highlights from the report include the San Diego Housing Commission preserving or rehabilitating 707 at-risk affordable housing units in City Heights, Eastern Area, Encanto and College Area communities; updating community plans to increase capacity for 74,000 additional units; permitting 627 "companion" units; and 273 affordable units being produced as part of the city's affordable housing density bonuses.

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