Sep 28, 2023 - Development

Inside San Diego's most expensive affordable housing project

The San Diego Housing Commission offices are located at the San Diego City Colllege Trolley Stop.

The San Diego Housing Commission offices are at the San Diego City College Trolley Stop. Photo: Dünzl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

An affordable housing project on Metropolitan Transit System property is getting pretty pricey.

Driving the news: SkyLINE Apartments, a 99-unit project reserved for low-income residents on a Rancho Bernardo bus station, is on track to cost over $900,000 per unit to build — more than any other affordable housing project in development in the city, according to the San Diego Housing Commission's latest tracking.

Why it matters: Housing affordability is a top concern across San Diego, and the scarcity of options for low-income residents is a driving force in the city's homelessness crisis.

Catch up quick: Affordable housing refers to government-supported units reserved for people earning below 80% of the region's median income who then spend 30% to 40% of their income on rent.

  • Those projects are often subsidized by federal and state tax credits, the city's low-income housing fund, or a variety of other government programs.
  • Renters who meet income requirements enter a waiting list for the roughly 16,500 vouchers available in the city each year.
  • As of the San Diego Housing Commission's update last month, the wait list is now estimated to take 12-15 years to work through.

Details: There are 25 projects currently in development in the city of San Diego, with an average per-unit cost of $521,000.

  • The most expensive, SkyLINE apartments, is being built by Affirmed Housing on a vacant portion of a bus station owned by the Metropolitan Transit System.
  • In an update to the Housing Commission this month, Affirmed pegged its per-unit cost at $909,431 for 99 units reserved for people making below 55% of the median income. The developer estimates finishing construction in February 2026.

The intrigue: Jennifer Kreutter, vice president of real estate at the Housing Commission, at a Sept. 15 meeting said two issues — beyond inflation and city water and sewer needs — drove up costs.

  • MTS required 84 public parking spots, in addition to 78 spots for residents, adding about $40,000 per unit.
  • The project includes office space set to become Affirmed's headquarters.
  • Without those, SkyLINE costs $816,000 per unit — still more than any other project.

What they're saying: "MTS prioritizes storing cars at the expense of housing people, despite the fact that we have a homelessness crisis, not a parking crisis," said Housing Commissioner Ryan Clumpner.

The other side: In a statement, MTS spokesman Mark Olson said the Rancho Bernardo station currently includes 84 parking spaces, and other spaces at a nearby surface lot.

  • "MTS believes this is an adequate amount of capacity for transit riders based on current demand and ability to effectively use the transit system," he said.
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