SAN DIEGO -- It comes as little surprise that across the country, the cost of rent has increased almost 3 percent since last year – and San Diego is no exception.
According to a Rentonomics 2016 National Apartment List Rent Report, rents nationwide have risen significantly over the past year and continue to go up. San Diego is shown as 11th highest on the list of most cost-burdened renters.
As home prices and the cost of rent continue to climb, working-class families are struggling to keep pace and many are slipping into poverty.
For one homeless woman, who did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job, the reality is much harsher than many people realize.
"Not the low class, not the high class, I’m the middle class…and there is no remedy for me. If I’m living check to check…how am I supposed to pay anything?”
She came to San Diego last year after she was offered a promotion at work. After relocating she found herself unable to afford a down payment for rent.
And like many, she is highly educated and works a full-time job but is also paying down a significant school loan debt, has a car payment, buys food and gas for her vehicle and pays medical costs associated with her epilepsy. Since she has no place to live, she also pays child support for her son. Following her divorce she found herself financially devastated with no savings and living out of her car.
“I’m going to be 30 years old,” she said. “For all the education that I have and how much I’ve accomplished for my age, I feel that this shouldn’t be happening."
According to a study released by the Public Policy Institute of California, housing affordability is strongly associated with the level of homelessness. In San Diego County, more than one in five residents, or about 23 percent of the population, lived in poverty, according to the report, which looked at a variety of living costs, including filling up the gas tank, food and healthcare. On average, rent is costing people 75 percent or more of what they get paid.
"I just want a stable place to stay that I can go home to where I can bring my son. I haven’t been able to have my son over for over a year,” she said.
She says her co-workers and boss don't know about her living situation.
“It’s embarrassing. It’s really embarrassing…but everybody knows you can’t afford a place out here,” she said.
This woman lives in her car in a nearby big-box store parking lot with many others in the same situation. She makes too much to qualify for Section 8 or other rental assistance. San Diego does not have rent control so unless one receives government assistance, rent can be raised at any time.