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San Diego booming, but renters struggling

San Diego joins many other desirable metropolitan cities as a place in which people want to live. However, according to the Fall 2015 Vacancy and Rental Rate survey conducted by The San Diego County Apartment Association (SDCAA), there isn’t much to choose from.

As it stands now, the vacancy rate for San Diego County is 2.6 percent, a significant drop from spring of this year which saw the rate at a somewhat healthy 4.1 percent.

“The latest numbers suggest the slight rise in the vacancy rate that we saw earlier this year was caused by temporary factors, not a fundamental change,” said SDCAA Executive Director Alan Pentico. “Despite a fair amount of new multifamily construction, we’re still experiencing the effects of a severe deficit of housing units in the San Diego region.”

Although the SDCAA survey is not a scientific study, the results are still a great indication of San Diego’s desirability and the lack of available rental units countywide.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that between the years of 2010 and 2014, the city had an increase in population of 159,000 people, but only 22,000 housing units were made available during that time.

Several types of living spaces were studied for 2015 survey. Surprisingly one-bedroom units had the highest vacancy rate, at 3 percent, while units with three or more bedrooms had the lowest at 2.2 percent.

The rate in studio units is 2.7 percent, while the rate in two-bedroom units is 2.5 percent.

These low numbers give landlords an upper-hand when it comes to rent. The study found that the average cost for a studio apartment is $1,046; that’s an increase of 7 percent.

Other units in the study were one-bedroom units at $1,327, two-bedroom units at $1,634, and $1,887 for units with three or more bedrooms.

Southern California continues to become one of the most desirable places to live in the U.S. despite ever-growing rental prices.

According to The Orange County Register, the average price for a vacant apartment unit in the O.C. is $1,867, while Forbes reports that the average Los Angeles rental costs $1,785.

Pentico says that San Diego’s low vacancy rate can be attributed to a few factors, “As the local economy continues to improve and jobless rates decline, the demand also grows for non-roommate living situations, which may explain the rise in rents for studio units. This places additional pressure on the market beyond population growth.”

Some of the blame for lack of family housing might be because of city planning, transit-friendly dwellings and problems within the Metropolitan Transit System itself. San Diego ranks as the worst light rail system operating in California at this time.

“Our overall public transit market share has been stagnant at around 3.3 percent of commuter volume since 1980,” said Robert Vallera, Senior Vice President of Voit Real Estate Services, “This points to a combined opportunity for policy makers to increase the multi-family housing stock and boost transit ridership by becoming more aggressive in their support of additional transit-oriented development, particularly in proximity to light rail stations.”

Not all of the news about housing problems in the Pacific Southwest is bad. Forbes reports that Las Vegas renters can expect to pay only $767 on average, per month for an apartment and has a 6.6 percent vacancy rate.

About the survey: The SDCAA Vacancy and Rental Rate survey is conducted twice a year to provide a snapshot — not a scientific study — of industry conditions. The Fall 2015 survey was mailed in September to nearly 6,000 rental property owners and managers in San Diego County. To ensure the results reflect the diversity of rental housing in the county, surveys are mailed to properties of all sizes, ages and amenity levels. The responses SDCAA received in this survey period represent 19,768 rental units. Because survey response rates fluctuate over time, comparisons between survey periods do not necessarily reflect the performance of a particular sample of rental units over time.

Timothy Rawles is Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at editor@sdgln.com, @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.