Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Unaffordable housing pushes San Diegans south

 March 7, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, March 7th


San Degians look to Mexico for housing

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The average cost for a gallon of gas in San Diego county is now 5 dollars and thirty-two cents. That’s the 17th record high in the last 19 days. Each of the three highest increases since July 20-15 have occurred over the past three days. The average price rose almost 13 cents on Friday, 11 Cents on Saturday, and 11 cents on Sunday, according to figures from Triple A and Oil Price Information Service.


The number of people hospitalized with covid 19 in San Diego county continues to drop. As of Sunday, 314 people were hospitalized with COVID, down from 346 from a day earlier. As of Friday the COVID 19 positivity rate was also on the decline with 4.4 percent of tests coming back positive. That’s down from 5.2 percent on Tuesday.


U-C San Diego is holding a panel discussion on the Ukraine-Russia crisis today at 5 p.m. U-C-S-D faculty will be discussing the political, military and economic aspects of the crisis, as well as options for U.S. and European policy going forward. It’ll be held via Zoom and is free and open to the public. Go to U-C San Diego’s facebook page to find the link to register.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Tijuana has long been a refuge for people who can’t or don’t want to pay the high living costs of San Diego. But now, with San Diego becoming the most unaffordable place in the United States, even more are making the move. And, as KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis explains, this is having a big impact on life in Tijuana.

I’m spending the afternoon with Gustavo Chacon … a Tijuana realtor with a flair for showmanship.

“So this is the main room and you have a balcony.”

He’s the type of realtor who walks you into a dark master bedroom. Then, with a flourish, opens the curtains to reveal a beautiful view of Tijuana’s eastern mountains.

“You have a balcony where you can actually put a table and some chairs and enjoy the afternoon. This type of a house is $950.”

We’re in a two-bedroom house in TJ’s Las Palmas neighborhood. It’s got a small yard and a balcony … and is just 15 minutes from the border.

In San Diego that $950 might get you a studio.

Tijuana has always been a place where Americans can live affordably while continuing to work in San Diego. But in 2022 America’s Finest City also became its most unaffordable, according to OJO Labs. It is one reason why the stream of people heading south has become a flood.

“Out of ten people who call us, seven of them are from the United States.”

Jill Holsen is a professor at San Diego State University. She moved to Tijuana after the 2007 financial crisis.

“We have that luxury, really, of living in the border and being able to sort of have it both ways. Pay low rent and have a lower cost of living in Tijuana and then have the powerful earning power of the United States.”

She lost her North Park condo in the subprime mortgage crisis. But that misfortune gave her the opportunity to make a move she’d wanted to make for a long time.

When Holsin moved to Tijuana in 2011, her kids thought it was edgy. Her coworkers thought it was quirky and unusual.

But over the last few years – and especially during the pandemic – Holsin says friends and coworkers have been hitting her up for advice.

“Explain to me how you did this because I’m really thinking about it, but I don’t understand what to do. I don’t know how much to pay for rent or where should I go?”

Scott Asher is among the new arrivals. He’s a freelancer - works as a digital artist, makes YouTube videos and NFTs. He went 18 months without finding steady work during the pandemic.

“It was a solution that I needed. I was in the market for it. I needed a place to live. It’s definitely a solution for a place to live.”

Asher is paying $550 for a two-bedroom apartment in Ensenada – about an hour and a half away from the border. He couldn’t find anything as nice for that price in Tijuana let alone San Diego.

And it’s not just lower rent. Asher says he pays less for food, utilities, cell phone bill, dental visits, and car insurance.

“I don’t know what place I’d be able to afford in California.”

But each time someone like Asher makes the move south, there’s an impact … the neighborhoods become less affordable to the people already there. Chacon says what’s been happening in San Diego for decades is now happening in Tijuana.

“The people who make less are having a hard time finding somewhere to rent. It also ads the shortage of production of economic housing.”

That $950 home with a balcony. It rented for $750 just a few years ago.

Tijuana landlords know that they can make a lot more money by renting to Americans. And residents who live in upper-middle class neighborhoods near the border are seeing their rents increase.

But unlike Americans, people who already live in Tijuana cannot simply cross the border to find more affordable housing. Instead, they’re pushed out to the outskirts of town. In neighborhoods with fewer jobs, less public services and more crime.

“It is something that is going to affect a lot of people – middle class and working class. It is going to affect them in the long run because the prices are going to go higher. The same thing is going to happen that is happening in San Diego to Tijuana."

This is Gustavo Solis for KPBS News.


Ballots are on their way out today for the Assembly District 80 race. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere says there are three candidates vying for the position, which was left vacant by former assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.

The 80th Assembly District encompasses the southern part of San Diego and most of Chula Vista and National City and was previously represented by Democrat Lorena Gonzalez.

Democrats David Alvarez and Georgette Gomez and Republican Lincoln Pickard are the candidates running to replace Gonzalez in the upcoming special election.

Christopher Rice-Wilson of Alliance San Diego says they're encouraging residents to exercise their right to vote by knocking on doors, calling phones and reaching out to audiences digitally.

“Folks are not required to vote by mail, there will be polling locations where people can vote. And people can also vote in the Registrar's Office and vote. And we’ll be making sure that residents in the AD 80 know those methods to vote.”

The special election primary for the 80th district will be held on April 5th, with a runoff on June 7th. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


New research co-authored by a San Diego scientist shows how climate change caused a near crisis at California’s Oroville Dam. KPBS Science and Technology reporter Thomas Fudge has more.

The Oroville Dam in northern California creates the state’s second largest reservoir. In 2017, an atmospheric river dumped a huge amount of snow then a huge amount of rain into the reservoir’s watershed. A 30-foot wall at the top of the dam nearly gave way to the volumes of water and more than 180 thousand people had to be evacuated. Alexander Gershunov is a research meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He says climate modeling projections show a warming atmosphere made the Oroville Dam crisis what it was.

“Rainfall from the atmospheric river was enhanced by about 11 to 15 percent by climate change compared to what it would have been in pre industrial time.”

He says the ability of the air to hold moisture increases with temperature. 2017 was the most active year on record, for atmospheric rivers, which bring up to 50 percent of California’s precipitation.


Coming up.... More than two-million American children and teenagers live with a wounded or ill veteran. Many help with the veteran's care.

“There will be some times I am sitting there and either I will hear them say ‘hey can I get some help’ or I am always on the listening”

We have that story next, just after the break.

More than two-million American children and teenagers live with a wounded or ill veteran…and Many help with the veteran's care. Those young caregivers often suffer with stress, social isolation, and less parental involvement in their lives. Now, a new study is trying to understand their experiences.

Carson Frame reports for the American Homefront Project.

[The Garey family home outside of Austin, Texas is a revolving door of medical professionals coming to assist Tom, the patriarch — an Air Force veteran with advanced ALS. Every few hours, a respiratory therapist or hospice nurse enters a key code to get into the house—and the German Shepherds Lou and Remi go crazy.

NAT: Dogs barking

LARA: It's life here at the Gareys. We try to make it like an ICU. But it's really like a zoo ICU.

That’s Lara, Tom’s wife and primary caregiver. Tom is bed-bound and paralyzed with a tracheal tube…he communicates with a camera that turns his eye movements into strokes on a keyboard.

Tom’s son Trey was 13 years old when his dad was diagnosed with service-connected ALS. He's 19 now.

TREY: I can pretty much do everything that needs to be done with my dad like trach care, suction stuff like that I can do pretty much all that…Outside of that I mainly take care of the house, I run errands to get food for me, my mom or my dad, I run and get meds… I just pretty much do everything around the house.Watching his dad’s disease progress — and trying to support his mom — have taken a toll on Trey. His attention is always split.

TREY: there'll be some times I'm sitting there…and either I will hear them say, Hey, can I get some help? Or I'm always listening, they can say, come here to the dogs. And I will hear tray, come here. So I get up and run.

Though the Gareys have tried to shield Trey from many aspects of his father’s care, he sticks closer to home than before. Lara says he became less engaged in school after the diagnosis.

LARA: I think he took a step back. And he became more attached to his dad and to, to me and to our family and what was going on, I think early on, he kind of thought maybe he should be the man of the house, because Daddy couldn't.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation recently commissioned a first-of-its-kind study on military caregiver children like Trey. It found that they often suffer from stress and anxiety, and many report social isolation. Others are hesitant to leave the house or have friends visit. And some say their relationship with their healthy parent has suffered as well.

Steven Malik is a senior researcher with Mathematica, the firm that carried out the study.

MALIK: …we have some kids who are making sure that their service member takes their medicine doesn't forget to turn off the gas on the stove. And then we have some folks who are serving as kind of de facto therapists for an emotional support for their service member

Malik says a lot of those kids are “parentified,” meaning they’re taking on developmentally-inappropriate responsibilities normally reserved for adults. Cleo Jacobs Johnson co-authored the study.

JOHNSON: kids are having a hard time… understanding their service members injury, or the illness and the impact it has on them.

Mathematica also found families often don’t know where to turn for help.

The Dole Foundation is building a coalition of government agencies, schools, nonprofit organizations, and medical institutions called “Hidden Helpers.” The idea is to form support groups, offer mental health care, and help kids and teens learn how to care for loved ones while still growing themselves.

Despite the pain points of life in a military caregiving family, there are some upsides. Lara Garey, formerly a caregiver fellow with the foundation, says her son Trey cares profoundly for people…in ways his peers don’t.

LARA: He's very good about, you know, kind of anticipating my needs as well as, as Tom's, which I have to say makes me such a proud mom. But then it makes me feel bad that my 19 year old is worried about my well being.

On top of his family responsibilities, Trey is going to college, hoping to graduate with an engineering degree. He’s taking his classes part-time online… which allows him to stay close to his dad.

I’m Carson Frame in San Antonio.

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Ways To Subscribe
Some San Diegans priced out of the region are turning to Tijuana for affordable housing. Meanwhile, ballots go out today for the Assembly District 80 race. Also, more than two-million American children and teenagers live with a wounded or ill veteran. Many help with the veteran’s care.