Report: San Diego Density Bonus Has Created Hundreds of Affordable Units

Going above and beyond California’s state-level housing density bonus law, San Diego launched its own program to encourage developers to build more affordable units.

1 minute read

April 25, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

“The cost of buying or renting a home has surged in many urban regions across the U.S. over the past few years, resulting in more people falling behind on rent, being evicted and experiencing homelessness. The rising costs, housing experts say, are largely due to a lack of housing to accommodate population growth.”

To address this growing problem, writes Danielle McLean, “California [enacted] a density bonus law allowing developers to build more units if they designate a certain proportion as affordable. San Diego took that idea a step further in establishing its own enhancement to that law in 2016, allowing developers to build even more units when they include a higher number of affordable ones.”

A new report from Circulate San Diego reveals that the program was used in projects that created over 6,000 housing units. “And from 2016 to 2020, it was used to create 463 deed-restricted affordable homes in mixed-income projects, financed primarily without relying on public subsidy.” Of these, 95 percent were located within a half mile of a “high-performing” transit stop. 

“The city has also been regularly updating its building codes, taking into account feedback about where in the permitting process projects get hung up and how to streamline those processes, said [Heidi Vonblum, San Diego's planning director].”

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