SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – San Diego consistently ranks among the most expensive places to live in the U.S., but renters are still finding ways to make it with the help of some assistance programs.
While the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego is around $2,000 a month, Paul Oviedo is no stranger to high rent and the advantage of having roommates after having moved to America’s Finest City from San Francisco a couple of years ago.
“We have a little bit of a view. We have some palm trees,” said Oviedo. “Paying for one room there was not too bad for me. I was able to make it.”
Oviedo estimates he spends 35 to 40 percent of his income for his half of a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment he shares with a friend in Hillcrest. While par for San Diego, that's above the 30% "income-to-rent" ratio recommended by most financial advisers.
But for Oviedo and his roommate, it’s only getting more expensive as their rent recently increased.
“We saw that it was $200. And I was not too happy about that,” Oviedo said.
While Oviedo is getting by with the help of his roommate, many others in San Diego are reaching out to the government.
“We're seeing a lot of people seek out assistance,” said Azucena Valladolid, the executive vice president of Rental Assistance and Workforce Development for the San Diego Housing Commission.
The agency provides rental subsidies -- known as Section 8 -- as well as affordable housing options and emergency rental assistance.
“Our program is gearing toward helping people who are at, or below, 80 percent of the area median income,” said Valladolid.
Valladolid said San Diego’s area median income (AMI) allows a family of four to qualify for help with an income as high as $97,000 a year. The number may sound high, but it speaks to the high cost of real estate in San Diego.
“It does sound like a lot of money,” said Valladolid, “It is; the area median income is adjusted every year by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
But Valladolid points out qualifying for help on paper doesn't necessarily mean getting assistance.
“A lot of the programs, because there's so much demand, you'll see they will prioritize households that are at or below 30% AMI or 50% AMI. So, it kind of leaves the sort of upper income classes,” said Valladolid.
And among those who do get priority, explains Valladolid, demand for help is high with waitlists -- especially for Section 8 -- that can be very long.
“What it means is that there's more demand than there are resources to help the people that are in need. So, currently our waiting list is between 10 and 11 years for people to receive assistance,” Valladolid told ABC 10News.
But Valladolid still encourages those in need to get in line and sign up for the other options like affordable housing developments, which may become available much sooner, or seek emergency help if they've been unable to pay rent or utilities due to the pandemic.
“They can also apply for past due rent or rent that is becoming due in the near future,” said Valladolid.
The emergency program has bolstered 13,000 households so far.
As for Oviedo, he's content, for now, to make it with the help of a roommate. The cost of San Diego, in his eyes, is still a bargain for what you get.
“There's a lot of opportunity,” said Oviedo. “The weather's always beautiful. So, like, how could you not want to move here? And it keeps growing. So, I do expect the cost of living to go higher.”
This past fiscal year, the San Diego Housing Commission helped 19,000 low-income households pay their rent.
The commission says they receive an average of 37 new applications for rental assistance every day.
Learn more about the Housing Commission has to offer at SDHC.org.