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San Diego's cost of living crunch

 July 1, 2024 at 1:00 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on KPBS. Many San Diegans are in the throes of a cost of living crisis. Today , we'll hear from organizations with a lifeline and learn about policies that could turn things around from our panel of guests. Here's to conversations that keep you informed , inspired , and make you think. A real conversation about why San Diego is so unaffordable. It's just impossible for folks to solve their problems through individual cutting back or , you know , making different choices about where to work or how many jobs to have. Then our panel of experts talk about the policies that should be in place to move us out of this crisis. That's ahead on Midday Edition. And. It's expensive to live in San Diego. A recent study out of Chapman University ranked San Diego the 10th least affordable housing market in the world. The rising cost of daily expenses from groceries to housing are piling on. Meanwhile , wages just aren't keeping up with the cost of living. Last Wednesday , I moderated a panel discussion on San Diego's Cost of living crisis with perspectives from local experts and community leaders. The conversation came to be through an initiative called KPBS lessons , where KPBS staff spent the past year talking to community members and hearing about your concerns. Naturally , your top priority was the cost of living. And today , on Midday Edition , we bring you a rebroadcast of that discussion. My guests were Andrew Keates , a reporter with Axios San Diego and formerly the Voice of San Diego. Also Kira Green , she's executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives , the nonprofit researches policy solutions for working class people. And Lisa Quests. She's CEO of Casa Familia , a nonprofit providing services and affordable housing for South Bay families. And then Kia Pollard. She's director of economic mobility and opportunity for the nonprofit Jewish Family Service of San Diego. I began the discussion by asking Andrew Keates about San Diego's affordable housing shortage. A recent report by the California Partnership found that we're short more than 134,000 affordable housing units. Here's what Andrew had to say.

S2: Big picture for many decades , the city of San Diego , the San Diego region as a whole , has not built enough housing. That is true overall. It's especially true in low income and very low income housing that's reserved for people who need it most. You'll often hear a metaphor. People say that it's a it's a martini glass. There's not enough housing being built overall , but the housing that is being built is disproportionately at the top of the martini glass. The that's the , uh , market rate or , uh , you know , above market or excuse me , uh , luxury type , uh , housing that you might see. And then the lower the base of the martini glasses , your very low income , your low income housing , which is much smaller. And then in the middle you have the middle income housing , sort of the housing that is affordable to people who simply need a place to rent. Maybe not. Maybe without having a deed restriction on their housing. There's almost none of that being built , you know. Very I mean , really , it's not an exaggeration to say there's basically none of that being built. Um , so we could get into very specific numbers. But the , the long and the short of it is we don't build anywhere near enough housing , and we haven't for many , many years.


S2: Here's one way that I like to I like to think about it. The city of San Diego. Um , out of a thousand people in the in in the region , the region of San Diego builds about last year , 3.4 new units for every 1000 people. Um , in California. That's not that bad. In fact , that's better than was being built than was built last year in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Um , but in markets like Charlotte or Nashville , they build over ten units per 1000 people in the region. Uh , Houston and Denver and , uh , Dallas , all these other peer cities that are in the West that are competing for where people are going to live and for jobs and all of the other things. Uh , for in San Diego , they build more than twice as many per capita housing units. Um , so we build so much less that it's often hard to emphasize just how different a world in which we were building enough housing would look like , um , tripling tripling the number of housing units we build today , um , would get us to what we need to do , and that would be in one year. And we would need to do that every year for many years in a row , tripling the number that we built each year. Um , the , you know , the , the state's housing , uh , the state requires that every , every region produce a , uh , housing element. A you know , something that that says how many housing units they need and then how they're going to build that , that says that we need to build about 15,000 units a year. Um , we typically build about 5000 units a year last year , the best year in decades , the single best year we have had in housing production since 1992. We built 9000 in the best year that we've had in 30 years. We're still not even close to the number that we need to build every single year for eight consecutive years , to even come close to hitting the number that we say we need. So it's , uh , it's not as though we just need to kind of build some more housing. It's it's a radically different , uh , outcome that , that , you know , to , to address the shortage. Um , and so that's the scale I would like to emphasize.

S1: Well , then I've got to talk about the challenges to building affordable housing here. Uh , Lisa , your group , Casa Familia , provides social services and develops affordable housing.

S3: And resources out there to acquire land. Um , are slim to none. And then you start to step into the space of what labor and material costs are. And the heavy lift that pre-development , uh , requires. So you're , you're spending money , um , and hopes to tap into , uh , uh , financing structures. And sometimes that takes 2 to 3 years , Sometimes five years , uh , to put together because so many sources are required , depending on the scale of , of the , the project that , that is being , um , you know , uh , trying to come to fruition in the community. And if it's affordable housing , you're trying to tap into tax credits very often that are also slim and very competitive. So between land acquisition , the the time it takes to create that capital stack and the overall cost of labor and materials continues to compound the challenges and why the luxury homes are being built , because those pencil out a lot easier than something like very affordable housing.

S1: Yeah , well , with the cost of everything going up , I want to talk about wages a little bit here. Um , Kyra , we also know that people's wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. I mean , minimum wage in San Diego is just over $16. According to the country's estimates , a single parent with two children would need to make around $37 an hour to keep up with basic necessities. And that's without public assistance.

S4: Honestly , working class San Diegans are really struggling to make ends meet. It's become more extreme in recent years. Just to give an example. In 2023 , rents increased twice as quickly as wages did in the city. So it's just impossible for folks to solve their problems through individual cutting back or , you know , making different choices about where to work or how many jobs to have is at a place where we absolutely have to recognize that the system is broken and that it's not something that individual people can just solve with different choices.

S1: Well , Kia , your organization , Jewish Family Services , works directly with families , um , struggling to afford the high cost of living here in the region. When families are overwhelmed by high costs like rent , I mean , what sacrifices do they have to make ? Um , and , you know , tell me about that. What ? Their experiences.

S5: Um , yes. I'm I'm nodding profusely to here is um comments about the just general cost of living. Um , we are past the point of telling people to budget better , um , when I am speaking to families and when my team is speaking to families , these folks know where every penny is going , um , in their monthly ledger to the week. Actually , um , and folks are giving up the necessities. People are choosing to eat less in order to feed their children on a regular basis. There are families who are forced to stay home because of the cost of childcare. Um , the last figure I saw is 2800 can cost about 2800 a month for child care , depending on the age of the children. Um , and And so people have to make choices , you know , either enter the workforce , pursue a career , um , pursue something that I might really want for myself , or stay home and take care of my children. Um , there are so many micro decisions that are made by families on a daily basis , and these are families who have access to the safety net. Most of the families in our program are enrolled in Cal Fresh and Medi-Cal , and they're still paying an exorbitant amount for food. Um , in our guaranteed income and cash support programs , we provide monthly assistance. We talk to the families , we interview them. We ask , you know , what are what are you struggling with ? And folks just are having a tough time meeting the basic needs , even with social safety net assistance. So that really speaks to the overall in affordability of the region currently. Yeah.

S6: Yeah.

S1: And tell me about the program that you're running , the guaranteed income program where families receive direct cash payments once a month. Findings will be published on that later this fall. But what can you tell me about , you know , what people are spending the money on ? Yes.

S5: That this is , um , this is a topic folks want to know a lot about. Um , spending is an integral part of understanding. You know , what people are actually struggling with. So we make it a point as part of the design to really examine that. And we'll say there are so many other intangible things that we capture through conversation and what we call qualitative data , right ? Just talking to people about their experiences. But across all of our programs , whether it's the guaranteed income programs or we support low income families in communities that are highly vulnerable , lots of over , you know , intersecting indicators for these zip codes and these communities across all of our programs , whether it's one time cash payments or the guaranteed income , monthly folks are spending it on food. They're spending it on retail expenses. So they're going to department stores. You know , they're buying home goods. They're getting clothes or , you know , shoes for the children. Um , and then they're spending it on transportation. So they're filling up their car , you know , with gas. They're repairing the car , doing , you know , trips to the to the bus stop to get their MTS pass , like all of those things that we would probably spend some additional dollars on if we had them. Wow.

S1: Wow. Well , Andy , you've actually reported on those transportation expenses. A typical San Diego household often spends most of their income on housing and transportation costs. Can you break that down for us ? Yeah.

S2: In San Diego , the average household spends like 57% of its income on housing and transportation alone. That's before they've bought one meal of food. 57% of their money is gone. Um , San Diego is is somewhat unique among very expensive cities in that it has very expensive housing. Yes , that's absolutely true. It also has very expensive transportation , um , based on the sort of design of the city. Um , it forces people to drive a lot. Having a car is an expensive item. It is for many households. It is the second most expensive item that they have. Um , and people make decisions based on their housing that lead to more expensive transportation. Uh , you can't afford a house near your job , so you drive a little bit farther away to get a house that you can afford , and you've given back some of those savings in in what you spend on your car. And , you know , one portion of that is the most visible cost of driving. How much how much a gallon of gas cost. There's a dollar sign on every street corner , and you see it all the time. And it's easy to think about that as the what it costs to drive. But that's not what it costs to drive. Having a car entails many other expenses , some of which are hidden and can sometimes sneak up on people who think that they have made a , you know , a sound financial decision to push themselves further out. Out of necessity is , you know , something that they maybe they wanted to be in a certain community , but they were forced out of there. And that really is different in San Diego than in some markets , um , in really expensive cities like San Francisco and Washington , D.C. , and New York City and Boston , those are very expensive places to live , but they at least do get a break on transportation. There's they spend much less of a percentage of their income on transportation than San Diego. And so in those places , um , if you combine housing and transportation costs in all of those places , it's below 50%. In San Diego , it's over 57%. So , yeah. So , you know , we we get a sort of , um , two awful flavors that taste terrible together with our housing and transportation.

S6: Costs and way to.

S1: Put it. And , Kira , I know you've got something to add to this. I mean , when people can't afford to live where they work , they have to pay more for transportation.

S4: We all know that the most stable and joyous neighborhoods to live in are ones where people can spend a good amount of time in their homes , in their neighborhoods , you know , being there. And what I want to say about it , though , is that I would just disagree with the idea that people are just making choices here , because what's really true is that the market is shaping those choices , and it's a real indication of the weaknesses of , depending on the private sector to solve these types of problems. So for instance , people are often paying rent somewhere. They're consistent renters , they've paid consistently , but they're still facing eviction or pushing out at the end of their leasing term because their landlord can just simply get more money , um , by renting that unit to someone else. So I think that negative impact on the community , um , is really caused by corporate greed in many cases that we're not talking about , and we're not holding accountable for this problem. And I think that's really important because this idea that prices just are prices , they don't come from anywhere. There are corporations making record profits. And when I say corporations , I include corporate real estate. So there are record profits being made , which means there could be a choice if If we had a moral economy , to say that people should not just make as much as they possibly can , and exact these negative impacts on individuals and communities.

S1: Wow , having a moral economy , can you tell me some of the policies that you think should change ? Absolutely.

S4: Some of the ones that we talk about in terms of housing costs is that we have to build more social or public housing , and we see institutions like school districts and community colleges trying to figure out how they can build housing , because the private housing market has proven that it either cannot or will not make housing that's affordable for everyone. We need stronger policies around rent control. Right now , what we're seeing is that landlords will simply charge whatever they can and with little care concern for the impacts. So we have to hold rental prices down , and we can do that while still allowing people to make a reasonable profit. We also have to compare that with like eviction protections. Um , because what we're seeing in many cases is that once people get evicted unfairly , usually it's really hard to get back into housing. Landlords are sometimes requiring people to make one and a half or two times the monthly rent in salary. And in an economy where people are , many people are paying more than 50% of their income in housing. It's going to be impossible to get into housing in those situations. So we can also stop evictions. And in some cities , there are actually rules about what kind of requirements landlords can set up , can set up so that we don't discriminate against low income people.

S1: Coming up , the lifeline from Jewish family service.

S5: Most of the people in our program are women of color. They're single women. They have at least two children , and they're in zip codes in our communities that face high food insecurity.

S6: Hear more when.

S1: KPBS Midday Edition returns. Welcome back to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Today on the show , we're rebroadcasting a panel discussion I moderated last week on San Diego's cost of living crisis. I was joined by Andrew Keates , a reporter with Axios San Diego. Also Kira Green , executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives , which researches policy solutions for working class people , and Kia Pollard. She's director of economic mobility and opportunity for Jewish Family Service of San Diego , and also Lisa Quest as she's CEO of Casa Familia , a nonprofit providing services and affordable housing for South Bay families. In this part of the discussion , I asked Lisa if her group has seen a major uptick in those seeking food assistance. Absolutely.

S3: Absolutely. It's it's one of those things that we've always provided assistance with , and we really had to expand that effort during Covid to the point of delivering homes to the doorstep of of many of our seniors in our community. Um , making sure that that everyone in what knows where they can access emergency food and , and monthly food distributions , um , and signing up for all of the benefit programs that will , will support that. Right. And it's it's unfortunately nothing new. It's it's been an issue for a really long time. Covid has compounded many things. Um , and the number one thing that folks come to familiar , uh , to ask for support with is first housing , because many folks will pay rent before eating. Um , and then , um , you know , figure out how to tap into all of the other resources to support with basic needs like food. I did want to want to kind of go back and touch on commute and how that impacts everyday families , particularly here in San Ysidro. We see that impact in very devastating ways because of the lack of production of affordable housing for the last 10 to 15 years. That outlet has been the Joanna and has been US citizens , US born citizens making the trek crossing the border. 70,000 vehicles crossed in the morning and 70,000 vehicles cross back. Why ? Because we're working in San Diego and living in Tijuana and now causing gentrification issues , also in Tijuana. So the the border wait times , um , have grown tremendously over the last ten years. And we're seeing sometimes 4 or 5 , six hour wait times. That has an impact on the quality of life , for very obvious reasons. But for a community like Sunnyside and the border region that is creating obscene amounts of particulate matter , the bad stuff for for your lungs. And now creating a health problem for an entire region , er , you know , and the bad stuff in the air has no borders. So from limited time with your families , if you're a student going to school here , you sometimes have to cross at 2 or 3:00 in the morning , wait around , class starts. Imagine that every every day , um , and worrying about , okay , we want to make sure we get our kids to school and have the , the food programs accessible within schools as well , because sometimes that is the most solid meal that , uh , that children are receiving. And so when we have programs that we can extend through the summer and we do so Casa has a summer camp , for example , um , we make sure that , uh , several meals are provided , uh , within that window of care and , uh , and referring to and partnering with as many organizations as possible. So folks have more than one option and one resource to be able to , to get food access.

S1: Oh , excellent. Andy , you know , a lot of our listeners wrote in about sticker shock on everyday goods. Where does inflation stand in San Diego ? Yeah.

S2: Well let me I mean , before we get to that real quick , I just want to add to Lisa's point , yes , that the overflow of people into Tijuana is a is a major issue. And it goes they go north as well. Riverside County southwest. Riverside County has over 50,000 people who live there and work in San Diego County and are making that commute in search of cheaper housing. Um , and just as the , you know , the the emissions don't know any borders , they also don't know any county boundaries. That is , uh , you know , that is bad in a number of ways. Uh , in addition to what it does to people's quality of life , um , inflation , you know , inflation is interesting because there's the way that economists will discuss it. Um , in which case , you know , things are headed in the right direction. Um , it was over 8% for most of 2022 , and in March it was down to 3.6% , so it had fallen almost by half in in that time period. But if you just go back to the beginning of 2021 until earlier this year , uh , the , you know , the inflation rate has increased 20% , 20.1%. The cost of buying basic goods is 20% higher than it was in January of 2021. Um , that's you know , that's really significant. And so I do think it is interesting to focus on the extent to which we talk about inflation in a way that is a little bit different than the way a typical household experiences inflation. Yes.

S1: Yes. Well , Kia , you know , while the cost of living crisis , it really seems to be impacting everyone. It doesn't impact everyone equally.

S5: Um , and I mean , I think if we if we go backwards a bit , um , in time , a little bit , and we just think about some of the foundational support services available to low income families in our community. Things like TANF , um , which is calworks in California , um , were very exclusive. Um , at the outset in the 1930s , there were categorical exclusions of people who were caregivers , domestic workers , agricultural workers. Um , you fast forward to the 40s , in the 50s and the 60s , and we start to get more access for African Americans , um , for women , predominantly single mothers , advocating for the right to access those benefits not afforded to them by the New Deal. Um , and at the same time , they're becoming more restrictive with all of the barriers in the administrative burdens. Um , so we have to kind of look back at the context for which these disparities emerge , and they stand and persist to this day. And when we think about guaranteed income and income specifically as one indicator of , you know , economic opportunity and mobility , we also have to consider wealth disparity is an even larger topic. Um , wealth disparity between or most drastic between African American and white households. Um , and that is , you know , credit to a lot of discriminatory practices. Um , inherent , you know , in , in some of the systems that we still , um , utilize today. So that reimagining and rethinking about , you know , what it takes to stabilize and who has access to what , um , is also a past to present analysis. Um , and we have to do that in order to understand and really accurately intervene to to address the disparities today. Because most of the people in our program are women of color , they're single women. They have at least two children , um , and they're in zip codes in our communities that face high food insecurity. They have high unemployment rates. There's those environmental stressors and pollutants that Lisa mentioned. Right. So all of these things don't happen by accident , and all of them have an impact on people's ability to mobilize and really gain socioeconomic status in San Diego and in this country.

S1: Well , and to Kia's point , um , we have to talk about the policies that put us in this place , right ? We don't get here by accident , but. So , Kira , can you talk about , you know , some of the policies that create these disparities in this inequality ? Absolutely.

S4: If I could just start with just some data about the income disparities to point , wealth disparities are even larger. But I think the number is on income disparities in our region are some of them are quite shocking. Um , first of all , the median income in San Diego. So half of households make above and half below $100,000. But to this point , about racial disparities , for example , for black households , that median income is $70,000. And for Native or Latinx households , that's around $80,000. So we're obviously seeing that that's a big difference in terms of what families can handle. To speak to Kyle's point about single parent households , especially single mothers , they only earn around $46,000 on average. So they're trying to survive and raise children in this environment. Kia made a lot of great points about policies that have gotten us there , but I also want to talk about policies that are failing us in getting us there , because the other thing that we're seeing is that we have lots of laws that are supposed to protect workers , But consistently at CPI , we find that wage theft is a tremendous issue. And when we speak to wage theft , what I mean is that people go to work. They work the hours that they're supposed to. Their employer has agreed to pay them a certain amount of money , and that employer then violates those rights , or that employer forces them to work for less than minimum wage , which is how you end up with households making so little. And that is , uh , intentional. We have a system. I tell this story all the time. Whatever people think about crime , crime that's committed by low income people is highly policed , and we spend a lot of money on an infrastructure to go out and find people committing low level crime. But corporate crime or business crime directed at poor people , There are very there's very little money being spent to actually hold people accountable. We're lucky in , uh , San Diego County to have an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement , um , that works along with our state labor Commissioner's office , and people can file complaints and try to recover the money that they're owed. But because those systems are underfunded , it takes too long for those investigations to happen. Um , too few of them happen. And even when they happen and employers are found to still wages , they often just don't pay those settlements. They don't pay the wages that they owe. And that's why we've also worked with our county office to have , um , workplace justice funds that allow people to access some cash if they have a settlement and allows this county to pursue businesses that have been found to steal from their employees and try to recover the money that they're owed and the penalties that the law holds them to. But we just need more resources put into that area of work.

S1: Coming up , the solutions and policies that could turn everything around.

S3: I am very hopeful if we can just get a little creative and if we can fund pilot projects that address and hit to long term , permanent affordable housing solutions if we fund innovation.

S6: More to come.

S1: When KPBS Midday Edition returns. Welcome back to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Last week , I moderated a live panel discussion on the cost of living crisis in San Diego. We're rebroadcasting that today on Midday Edition. You just heard about some of the main drivers of high cost , like housing and transportation. And the last part of our discussion , we talked about possible solutions. A reminder that our panelists included Sarah Green , Greene , executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives. Lisa Cuesta , CEO of Casa Familia. Kia Pollard , director of economic Mobility and Opportunity for Jewish Family Service of San Diego , and Andrew Keates , a reporter with Axios San Diego. Here I asked Andrew what , if any , meaningful changes have been made towards improving affordability here in San Diego.

S2: Well , I mean , the city has primarily been pursuing the market driven solutions. I would say , uh , deregulating housing production to make it easier and cheaper for developers to build market rate housing. Um , and , you know , I suppose you could say that there's some bit of , uh , success or the maybe early stages of what might be success in last year , going from roughly 5000 housing units averaged over the last ten years per year to 9000. Right. So , um , you know , when Mayor Kevin Faulkner was leaving office , I talked to a bunch of housing economists and , uh , housing market types about whether all of the policies he had had passed over the years , um , could be said to be successful if there hadn't been a meaningful uptick in housing production. Uh , in even in spite of all the different changes that they did , they did to make it easier to build housing. And one of the things I was told was , well , it takes time. It takes time for the development industry to understand the changes. It takes time for a given project to go find financing and to come to market. These things don't happen overnight. And so maybe we're like five years into this process and we're starting to see some sort of increase in housing production. But you know , those 9000 units , only about 25% of those are reserved for people with low income or very low incomes. Um , you know , 75% of them are at the higher end of the price range. Um , and again , that even that 9000 doesn't get close to the , the , you know , the , the bottom line of what we need , the 15,000 that we need every single year. So I would say that that is the primary policy response that we have seen so far. In fact , um , last year , San Diego received less money from the federal and state governments for affordable housing production than it did in the year before that. It actually it actually decreased. Uh , you know , I think , you know , there was a discussion about the need for social housing or public housing. Um , really , you know , those have been conversations , um , that happen in venues like this , and they haven't had a really meaningful audience at the city council level in the mayor's office. Um , you know , the the sort of on the at the ballot box , um , those are all things that require big policy changes. Um , maybe , you know , actual legal changes in some cases , um , that haven't happened and there hasn't been in from what I can tell , a huge amount of discussion among elected officials pursuing them.

S1: Well , we've got an audience question. Nikki Rendon from Instagram asks , how can community members directly create rent control for their city ? She says ours is 8% , which is basically corporate greed masquerading as rent control. Kyra , I want to hear from you on that one.

S4: Uh , what I would say about it is , I think , Sandy , one of the things about , uh , the state of California is that we have a ballot initiative process. We can move laws , but what we need is the sense that one , we need funding for that , and we need a sense that that voters are going to vote for these things. And we face a real set of challenges , which is that there is no limit on the amount of money that corporations can spend to misinform people about , you know , those needs. And so I think it's important for us to at this point to like , have these kinds of conversations so that we're making it clear that it's possible to move things. I also would just say that one of the things I find interesting is the one place that I consistently hear conversations about public entities trying to approach this issue around housing is in our school systems. Both San Diego Unified School District is talking about doing this building housing that's both workforce and student housing , potentially. Um , community colleges for the first time are taking that on. And I think it's very interesting because I think what it reflects is those parts of government where it is unquestioned , that their job is to care for people are the first places that we're seeing a care about housing , and we have to sort of change the conversation overall about the responsibility of government to help us care for each other.

S6: And key , I know.

S1: You've got something to add to that. Yes.

S6: Yes. Absolutely.

S5: Absolutely. And I think , um , the emphasis on school districts , um , coming into this area and really acknowledging housing for children is a really important stabilizing factor is incredibly critical. And I'll say giving people money is extremely practical. It is one of the leading indicators for or predictors of child welfare services involvement. And that's national. That's also local statewide data as well. Income loss housing insecurity and just economic hardship , you know , are the largest predictors of families coming into contact with child welfare services. And that's why one of our guaranteed income programs is specifically targeting and focused on the population of families who are referred to child welfare services in partnership with the county. We're really looking at preventative measures like concrete supports , cash supports to prevent that cycle of involvement with child welfare services. And the same applies with housing. I mean , there's statewide studies , you know , that show just 300 to $500 in support would prevent someone from becoming homeless. And these are folks that are right on the brink of of imminent disaster , right. There are folks who have been displaced and need that extra gap support for individuals on the familial level , right. We do it for developers. Let's do it for for families as well. And , you know , we have to really start looking at how all of these systems intersect. You know , folks who are living in poverty , who are 200% of the federal poverty level or lower , have higher instances of contact , and are reported for neglect more often. You know , it's a 85% , I think is the statistic for folks who are reported for neglect. And on the outside , looking in from a mandated reporter , you know , they're looking at families who actually don't have the resources to provide dental care , who don't have the resources to provide consistent meals or clothing. Right ? They may not even have a stable housing , you know , home environment to be in. So when we think about that and we think about , um , income as a really salient , very important piece of overall health and economic security , right.

S1: Well , Lisa , I want to pull you in here because one solution your group is really pushing for is community land trust. The idea is community ownership of land.

S3: Casa Familia donated land. Uh , to to the land trust and are planning to build 103 homes for the first 15 years , will be , um , rental structure for families earning between 30 and 60% Ami. And why ? Because that is mostly what um is representative here in sunny Seattle and and most underserved and underrepresented communities at that 15 year mark. Uh , Casa Familia will step back. Um , and at the get go , it will be a resident , um , control board and provide a home ownership opportunity for those families who will be working with Casa for 15 years to be ready and in a position , um , with their credit and with building wealth over time and not seeing unexpected increases , planned increases that will get them to the point where a mortgage is manageable and realistic. So now that's the that for us , that's the best rent control because no one is going to raise your rent when you are now a homeowner.

S1: Well , I'd like to wrap up this conversation with a final question for all of you. What do you envision for a future more affordable San Diego ? Andy , I'll start with you.

S2: Haha , I. Well , hopefully some other folks will have more optimistic ideas. Right now I don't I don't see a great deal of hope for the trajectory of things changing. I don't , I don't see , um , a lot of bright spots in this getting better in the short term , and I don't hear a huge amount of conversations about things that would change things in the long term. I think until until there's a sort of collective decision to make really different changes about on housing certainly is the biggest thing. But but it's not just about housing. Um , I don't really see , um , San Diego being anything other than a very unaffordable place for the foreseeable future.

S6: Kia , do.


S5: Um , I also think that I have I'm truly blessed to do the work that I do and see the hope and the human potential in people on a daily basis , and how something as simple as $500 a month , um , can really change people's mental , physical , relational health in the positive and really have people take that money and use it to grow themselves gives me so much hope because it's sometimes , um , with complex problems. It's it's the right interventions , you know , and we can start to chip away at those and , and build on those if we have the right conversations. So , um , I'm encouraged by the people that I serve , um , and that serve me , um , and , uh , by the work being done on this panel. So I'm a little bit more hopeful.

S6: All right , Lisa.


S3: If we can just get a little creative and if we can fund pilot projects that address and hit to long term , permanent affordable housing solutions. If we fund innovation , if we take some risks , um , to. And if all the risks and if all it does is end up helping people for a little while , then we we need to do all of it. There is a lot of wasted space in San Diego. There is a lot of malls that take up a whole lot of space with parking spaces and and vacant buildings , um , these old banks that take up a lot of square footage that , you know , you could go three , 4 or 5 , six storeys on , on top , um , and build housing banks love to , to fund and get cra points um to organizations for innovative innovative housing. How about you just partner and build on top of the buildings that you already own ? There's just so many things that we can test out and that , um , we need to do transitional housing with a lot of the the underutilized hotels , motels. We did it during Covid. Why can't we keep doing it ? So there's just so many things that we could start to do and test out. And if all that does is help people in the next ten years when , um , the housing market and production of affordable housing starts to catch up , we need to do it all at the same time.

S6: And , Kira.

S1: I'm going to give you the final word. Here here.

S7: I am surprisingly. Optimistic.

S4: Optimistic. I find myself surprised at this moment , but there are two things that lead me to feel optimistic. One , I know , actually , we're capable of taking on big , huge , transformative actions when we want to as a society. I mean , most people in San Diego live in housing that was built in the post-war period or during the war period , world War Two period , rapid building of housing. It can happen. So one , I know that that's possible. And the other thing that gives me hope is that I think many of the sort of cultural things about San Diego , the NIMBYism , the people who don't want things built in their backyard , the complete dependence on single family homes , the rejection of public transit. I think we see young people embracing a different approach to the future and understanding that we need something different. And so when you combine that , like energy from young people , a different way of looking at the world and then the history that says we can do big things when we put our minds to it. I am hopeful that that energy , that the organizing of people together can lead to a different San Diego.

S1: You've been listening to an edited version of a live panel discussion I moderated last week about San Diego's cost of living crisis. You can catch the full recording of this discussion on There you'll find a web page with a list of countywide resources to help you cope with San Diego's high cost of living. Thank you to the panelist who joined me for this discussion , including Andrew Keates , reporter with Axios San Diego Kyra Green , executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives. Lisa Cuesta , CEO of Casa Familia , and Kia Pollard , director of economic mobility and opportunity for Jewish Family Service of San Diego. If you have an idea for a future show related to the cost of living in San Diego , we want to hear from you. Give us a call at (619) 452-0228. 0228. That's our show for today. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Thanks for tuning in to Midday Edition. Be sure to have a great day on purpose , everyone.

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On June 26, KPBS will host a panel of experts to discuss the cost of living crisis in San Diego.
On June 26, KPBS hosted a panel of experts to discuss the cost of living crisis in San Diego.

A recent study out of Chapman University ranks San Diego the 10th least affordable housing market in the world.

The rising cost of daily expenses, from groceries to housing, are piling on. Meanwhile, wages aren’t keeping up.

On Wednesday, June 26, KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon moderated a panel discussion about San Diego’s cost of living crisis with four local experts.


  • Andrew Keatts, reporter with Axios San Diego and formerly Voice of San Diego
  • Kyra Greene, executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, a nonprofit that researchers policy solutions for working class people
  • Lisa Cuestas, CEO of Casa Familiar, a nonprofit providing services and affordable housing for South Bay families
  • Khea Pollard, director of economic mobility and opportunity for Jewish Family Service of San Diego

If you have an idea for a future show related to the cost of living in San Diego, we want to hear from you. Give us a call at 619-452-0228.