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Confronting San Diego’s Lack of Affordable Housing

SMPS San Diego thanks McCullough Landscape Architecture for sponsoring the event and our yearly sponsors The San Diego Daily Transcript, Mike Torrey Photography, and Scantech Graphics.

Many of us related to the issues presented at the September 18th luncheon, “Affordable Housing in San Diego, What is It and Why We Need It.” It is not news that families have near-insurmountable obstacles as they try to save for a down payment on their first home or find affordable rentals. Three panelists, along with moderator Doug Austin of AVRP Studios, offered insight and solutions that was followed by an informative Q&A.

Affordable Housing panel

Affordable Housing panel

The first panelist, Peter Dennehy of Myers Research, presented facts that illustrate the housing challenges our county faces:

  • Average cost of a home is $500,000
  • Current building rate is very slow
  • Affordability is disappearing for many
  • As housing costs continue to climb, incomes remain stagnant
  • It’s difficult for buyers to qualify for mortgages
  • Rents are on the rise
  • We need job growth, therefore more housing

Afterward, Anne Wilson, Senior VP of Community Housing Works (CHW) noted that HUD (Housing and Urban Development) created the term “affordable housing” in the 1970s to gather statistics on the ratio of income to housing costs. HUD initially calculated10% of a household’s income should go toward rent or a mortgage. Subsequently, the amount increased to 30% and in San Diego County that percentage has risen to a whopping 50% for many people. The resulting increase affects education, business, the economy, neighborhood stability and crime, not to mention the impact on the environment. As an example: if you live 50 or 60 miles from your job, commuting those distances greatly increases carbon emissions. Anne listed some of CHW’s findings:

  • California has a deficit of 1,000,000 homes; San Diego’s deficit is 100,000
  • Land costs are driving up prices
  • Incomes need to be increased
  • A need for reduction of building costs

CHW offers an abundance of community-based services that help families buy or rent affordable housing. CHW are also developers, building affordable housing for working families. Many of their projects are LEED-certified, including Kalos, Poway Villas, and LaCosta Paloma. These projects enhance neighborhoods, help build economic sustainability and give families access to housing. Not to mention, the projects bring jobs to our A/E/C community.

Arnulfo Manriquez, President and CEO of MAAC (Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee), shared his vision for San Diego’s underserved families. Since 1965, MAAC’s Pillars of Service include programs for affordable housing and helping families work toward economic prosperity. The nonprofit manages 845 apartments with 200 more coming soon. The MAAC organization develops properties, working closely with architects to insure that the structure will be sustainable for 55 years or more.

MAAC’s has a different approach when bringing affordable housing to a neighborhood. They involve the community at the grassroots level that dispels the notion of “not in my backyard.” When residents and businesses learn that these projects bring great economic and social value to their lives, they understand and accept the overall value to the community.


SMPS San Diego chapter president, Catherine McCullough

Catherine McCullough, the chapter’s new president, concluded the luncheon with a reminder to attend Leverage Your Beverage coming up on October 9. Be sure to mark your calendar and come socialize with us.

Written and submitted by Nanette Newbry, Principal, Creative Director, Studio 2055

Photos by Mike Torrey Photography, specializing in architectural photography. Mike’s images will be featured at this year’s Orchids & Onions Awards Ceremony on October 2nd.


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