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National report says San Diego is the most expensive city in the US

A national report says San Diego is the most expensive place to live in the U.S. KPBS reporter Melissa Mae talked with an expert about the reasons why.

Housing costs are a big factor in ranking by U.S. News and World Report. It also said San Diego tops the list, because it requires the most wealth to live comfortably.

Why it matters

According to Frank Powell, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors, the average income for San Diegans is about $70,000 a year. But realistically, he said, you need to make about $180,000 a year to buy a house here.

“That’s what your base pay is because the average house is about a million dollars,” Powell said.


By the numbers

The cost is significantly higher than the national median sale price, which researchers at the Federal Reserve put at $431,000.

In addition to that, U.S. News and World Report cited the high cost of living in San Diego.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, San Diego’s 4.7% overall inflation rate was a full point higher than the national rate. Over the last year, food costs have increased by 3% and energy prices are up nearly 7%.

Closer look

On top of the high cost of living, Powell says there’s not a lot of room to build new properties. 

“We ... have the ocean, on the south we have Mexico, on the north we have Camp Pendleton and on the east we have mountains, so there’s only a certain geographical area we can build,” Powell said.    


Looking ahead

One solution Powell suggested is building more Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as ADUs.

“An ADU is a way to take a little bit of relief from the housing build. So you allow someone to build a house on their property," Powell continued, "so now you don’t have a residential one, you have two houses.”  

San Diego was not the only city in California to make the list. Seven out of the top 10 most expensive cities were in the Golden State.

  1. San Diego, CA
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Honolulu, HI
  4. Miami, FL
  5. Santa Barbara, CA
  6. San Francisco, CA
  7. Salinas, CA
  8. Santa Rosa, CA
  9. San Juan, PR
  10. Vallejo & Fairfield, CA

To see the full report, click here