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The Housing Crisis

A piece about the increase in Housing prices in San Diego.

Whenever there is a large influx of people into a new community, there is always the question of where to house. This remains true in San Diego, where over 85 thousand refugees have been settled since the conclusion of the Vietnam war. Many refugees were settled in San Diego and have since gone on to rebuild their lives in said city, allowing many of them to find prosperity and success. This dream of building a new life in San Diego, however, may soon become a thing of the past as many refugees can no longer afford to live in San Diego.

Over the last few years, the price of housing in San Diego has been skyrocketing leaving many people unable to afford these houses. Prices have risen by more than fifteen percent in just the last year in the total of San Diego County. The price increase in the city of San Diego is even higher with an over nineteen percent increase in median home price in the last year. These price insurances have made the median income for housing in San Diego reach an all-time high of 875 thousand dollars. This is quite a contrast to the median income of the average San Diego resident which is thirty-six thousand six hundred and nine dollars. Even if someone is not interested in buying a house and is instead interested in renting. The price of rental properties has also seen a large surge in San Diego and the median price for rent is just sky of three thousand dollars a month. This amount represents a twenty nine percent increase in the last year alone. Many people cannot afford to pay the price of their apartments and instead must look to downsize or move out. As a result of these price increases San Diego has passed San Francisco as the most unaffordable housing market in the United States.

“It is infuriating” says Adil, a twenty-eight year old Iraqi refugee who came to San Diego in 2010 fleeing violence in his country, “I have lived here for twelve years and I will finally have to leave as I can’t afford to buy or rent a home here anymore.” Adil’s frustration is something that many other refugees can sympathize with as they wish to stay in San Diego and continue to build on their lives. In Adil’s case, he attended high school and went to a local community college. He worked the local shops and slowly built his savings in hopes of one day owning a house in San Diego. His sentiments and feelings towards San Diego can be found with many refugees throughout the community.

The increase in housing prices has been especially felt by the low-income community which contains a large number of refugees. Refugees often arrive in the country with very little to their name and usually have very few personal belongings or assets of monetary value. As such many of them qualify for low-income housing or other government assistance programs. These programs, however, mostly tend to cover a flat portion of the rent and as the median cost of rent increases, the percentage of the rent that is subsidized by the government and other welfare groups has decreased. Refugees like many other low-income individuals, tend to work minimum wage jobs living paycheck-to-paycheck often struggling to make ends meet. According to the San Diego County website, approximately thirteen percent of the county live below the poverty line often unable to make ends meet. Many of these people are refugees for whom any increase in rent could mean having to forgo other essentials like food.

“It was hard not knowing when your next meal is coming from or if you're even going to get one” said Adil recounting his own experiences in his childhood in Iraq where he was often forced to skip meals as his family did not always have enough money to eat. “I came to this country to make sure to find a better life and escape these struggles. To hear that these problems are faced by other refugees after they had to suffer in their home country is something that greatly troubles me,” he said as further elaborated on his view of the situation. This view represents the troubles that many refugees face after they come to this country. Many refugees often face unspeakable hardships in their home country and have come to the United States in order for a chance at a better life. This however is not the reality for many of them as they are force to go with necessities such as food and electricity in order to be able to afford to pay their ever-increasing rent price.

An example of the effect of rent prices on refugees is treatment of some of the recently arrived Afghan refugees. These newly refugees were not provided housing by the resettlement agency as cheap housing could not be located. As such a local group of residents had to organize their housing with some of the families staying in motels, while others stayed with family members. This incident shows the true scope of the housing problem caused by the increase in housing prices. If cheap and affordable housing is not able to be located there may be many more refugees suffering from eviction or other housing related problems as faced by these few Afghan refugee families. These evictions can directly be traced back to the problems created by the increase in housing prices in San Diego.

As these housing prices have increased so have the number of unsheltered people living in San Diego. The number of homeless people has increased from around 7,500 in 2020 to over 8,000 in 2021, showing an increase in the homeless population despite the city's best effort to combat it. In addition to this, there are already over 2,000 homeless people accounted for in just the first two years of 2022, placing 2022 on track to be the year with the largest number of homeless people. San Diego now ranks fourth overall in terms of having the largest population of homeless people in the nation. This shows that the San Diego housing system is already strained with little room and opportunities for refugees to find housing forcing many of them to instead be homeless. With the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and over a million people being displaced, some are poised to come to San Diego in order to escape the violence and build a new life. However, with the extremely high housing prices many of these refugees may not be able to afford forcing them to be homeless.

With the housing market in its current state there is a large financial strain placed on not just refugees, but all San Diego residents. The housing market is at its peak since the 2008 financial crash, with many forecasts showing the current market growth will not stall out in the near future. With home prices so high, many refugees are or will soon become unable to find affordable housing. This can lead to two options with those being their departure from San Diego with the other being the possibility of going homeless. In addition, the increase in the price of rent has far surpassed the increase of salaries of many refugees making the chance they lose or are unable to find a home all the more likely. “It is such a tragedy that all these good people are struggling so much,’ says Adil, “They came to this country as their last hope and even after what they had to go through, they still have to worry about having a roof over their head. ” As such the current situation of the housing system in San Diego is one of a catastrophic rise and one that is not sustainable for many of the refugees living in San Diego.



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