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San Diego is worst place in the country for Black renters, new report shows

Gabrielle Hines and her son, 2019.
Courtesy: Gabrielle Hines
Gabrielle Hines and her son are shown in this photo from 2019.

Black renters are more rent burdened in San Diego than in anywhere else in the country, according to a new study by Zillow, an online real estate company.

Using a combination of Census data and Zillow’s Observed Rent Index, Zillow economists found that San Diego Black renters spend on average almost 53% of their income on rent.

A household is considered rent burdened when 30% of its income is spent on housing. By this metric, Black renters in San Diego aren’t just burdened, they are severely cost burdened.


RELATED: Black and Latino families continue to bear pandemic's great economic toll in U.S.

“Honestly, it’s not surprising,” said Gabrielle Hines, who works as a school counselor in Kearny Mesa.

Hines is Black and grew up in the Skyline neighborhood of San Diego surrounded by family. She’s seen a lot of her family and neighbors pushed out of the neighborhood due to rising rents.

“It almost makes people feel like they're not good enough to live in the neighborhoods that they came from,” she said.

RELATED: Why helping people pay rent can fight the pandemic


She recently moved to La Mesa with her husband and their three-year-old son. She found a deal on a three bedroom apartment for $1,800 that she couldn’t pass up.

Every other housing option she found in Skyline and other neighborhoods in Southeast San Diego were too expensive. She says all the three-bedroom apartments she looked at in the area cost $2,600 to $3,000.

Hines recently got a raise and makes $28 an hour after completing her Master’s degree. She estimates she and her husband, who's an electrician, make around $100,000 a year, which means they pay 22% of their income to rent. But they are still struggling.

“It doesn't feel like we’re actually making good money when the rent is so high,” she said. “It still feels like we are playing catch up on our bills and still living paycheck to paycheck.”

According to Zumper, an online rental marketplace, the average rent in San Diego is currently $2,195 a month. San Diego is expensive for renters across all demographics.

Zillow rent ffordability by race
Source: Zillow
Zillow rent affordability by race

“We've seen that in San Diego, for example, the pandemic has increased the rent burden across households,” said Nancy Wu, the Zillow economist that led the research study.

Wu found that Latinos renters in San Diego pay on average 39% of their income on rent while Asian renters pay 33% and white renters pay 34%.

Still, Black renters are by far the most burdened by rent in San Diego. And they spend 18% more of their income on rent compared to Black households nationally.

“Affordability is the reason why we're seeing the biggest discrepancy in the biggest rent burden for Black renters in San Diego,” Wu said.

According to Wu, these inequities are a reflection of historic racial discrimination combined with low household incomes and rising rents. In other words, rents are high and wages are not catching up.

In a statement to KPBS, Mayor Todd Gloria said “the results of this study are infuriating, but not surprising” and added that his top priority as mayor is to “to ensure that all San Diegans have a roof over their head at price they can afford.”

Mayoral spokesman David Rolland said the city has already invested in rental assistance programs and launched several business and youth development programs aimed at San Diego’s communities of color.

But the outcomes of these solution-driven programs take time, and for now, renters like Hines are feeling the economic duress of being Black in San Diego.

“We're pretty stressed,” she said. “It feels like we're barely making it.”

San Diego is worst place in the country for Black renters, new report shows