The Business of Housing Panel_EditedSan Diego’s housing crisis has complex roots and defies easy answers. But one thing is certain, if we don’t find solutions for housing affordability, the region will feel the negative effects profoundly. That was the topic discussed by a panel at the CityAge conference held this week at the San Diego Central Library.

The panel, moderated by San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Roger Showley, consisted of local and out of town experts. Turns out, San Diego is not alone in feeling the crunch.

“We are a victim of our own success,”  said Samuel Assefa, Director of Planning and Community Development, City of Seattle. “Many other large cities similar to Seattle and San Diego, including San Francisco, Boulder, and Austin, have the same story. With the population and number of jobs increasing, there effectively needs to be more supply to keep costs down.”

San Diego is constrained in its ability to build in outlying regions because of its geography. Other hurdles include: cost of construction, cost of materials, cost of the quality-of-life decisions which relate to housing decisions (i.e. Climate Action Plan), and government regulations.

Lynn Reaser, Chief Economist, Fermanian Business & Economic Institute, Point Loma Nazarene University, repeated her oft-cited research that found 40 percent of the cost of a house locally is related to government regulations.

Marco Sessa, senior vice president, Sudberry, who is developing several thousand multi-family units in Mission Valley, confirms that the cost equation is very difficult, and that as we innovate housing types we must rewrite and shape regulations as well.

The median price of a home in San Diego is now $512,000, which is only $5,000 less than the all-time high in 2005. And the panelists agreed this is a product of the simple supply-and-demand rule of economics:  With a continual rise in population in San Diego and less developable land, demand is higher, supply is limited and prices inexorably go up.

Some solutions discussed were to build more cost-effective housing, finance specialized or workforce housing, partner with employers, and garner the support and collaboration of thought leaders coming together to address the crisis.

Reaser mentioned that she and other leading organizations have become involved in the Housing You Matters coalition with the priority to increase the supply of housing for all income levels. With demand not anticipated to decline, the housing costs will continue to go up and out of reach for many residents.

Unfortunately, the panel demonstrated there aren’t any easy answers to housing affordability in San Diego. And as Showley said after the event, the panel might have raised more questions than it answered. But, if the best and brightest minds in the region work together, we can find creative solutions to our biggest challenge. Be part of the solution and attend one of Housing San Diego’s Future’s events.