Apartments in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

What local demographic has been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic? Low-income renters, according to the latest report from residential real estate hub Zillow.

The February report covers trends in the home rental and sales markets, with a city-by-city breakdown. The study found local low-income renters didn’t benefit from most rents, which remained steady this past year. It also noted that rent declines have been steepest in “expensive” neighborhoods, while remaining “stubbornly” high in more-affordable areas. Overall, typical rents in San Diego were around $2,380, just over 4% more than a year ago. 

“While the pandemic has cut into demand for rental housing, that has only translated into declining rents in expensive markets, and most acutely at the top-end of those markets,” said Zillow senior economist Jeff Tucker. “This past year saw widespread adoption of work-from-home policies, especially for higher-income renters who previously paid top dollar for proximity to their workplace. Demand for these rentals took a hit as many leapt into homeownership, while the flow of new renters … dried up, at least temporarily.”

Meanwhile, average home prices appreciated a staggering $87,664 year over year. A typical home hit $702,933 in February, up 14% from the year-ago period.  Zillow’s survey confirms what has already been widely reported–the number of houses hitting the market dropped 25% compared to February last year. That account for the run up, as there are far more buyers than sellers. For more data, check out Zillow’s February Market Report.

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Traffic is picking up at San Diego International Airport, with another new service offering. The airport says Alaska Airlines has launched its first daily, nonstop flight to Missoula, Montana. According to the airport, this is the first time SAN will have nonstop service to Missoula. The airport is experiencing a slow return to normal. Earlier this month, Japan Airlines returned to San Diego with three-day-a-week flights to Tokyo after a year-long hiatus caused by the pandemic. Alaska also launched service to Kalispell, Montana, last month, and Allegiant Air announce it would be launching service to five U.S. cities this year during the summer travel season.

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Shawn McClondon, founder of the Solana Beach-based Sister Cities Project, launches EcoHub, a new business development accelerator supporting Black women entrepreneurs in the region.  She says her accelerator model derives from a whitepaper published in the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank that offered a way to boost business formations among black women. McClondon says her new hub is serving a community of more than 100 Black women entrepreneurs with the help of more than 40 service providers, including bankers, consultants, investors and mentors. McClondon envisions creating a model for her hub that can be duplicated nationwide. “We believe that forming these partnerships between differing communities will be the catalyst to help end racial inequality,” she writes at the website

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San Diego-based Optima Office, an accounting and HR service provider, has announced a new practice area in non-profit financial management. The practice will focus on helping non-profit organizations incorporate social enterprise methods and services into their business model to boost financial flexibility and sustainability.

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Local cable television and internet access provider Cox Communications now offers a new remote that allows customers with disabilities control a TV with eye movement. The remote gives those who have lost fine motor skills the ability to browse the video guide “with a glance,” says a spokeswoman. According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, 16% of residents in the U.S. have difficulties with functioning, which make such tasks as using a TV remote a challenge. For more information, click here.

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This week, Meals on Wheels San Diego County is staging its annual Champions Week campaign, with civic and business leaders delivering meals to seniors to increase awareness about the growing population of elderly residents suffering from hunger and isolation. San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan kicked off the week-long event by delivering meals in and around the city of San Diego, where 550 clients live. The nonprofit agency serves a total of 2,000 clients regionwide. Go here for a deeper dive.

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And my final item…the county’s north coast hotel industry had something to celebrate on St. Paddy’s Day last week. After two-years in the making, the 130-room oceanfront Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas opened March 17. The hotel is the first in a series of new beachfront properties set to come online over the next few years in and around Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside. Hyatt, the manager of the new Encinitas property, is also expected to manage the Mission Pacific Hotel and the Seabird Resort in Oceanside later this spring. The two properties will boast 387 rooms between them. And even more properties are on the horizon. The Oceanside City Council has approved construction of three new hotels with a capacity of 426 rooms to be constructed on 12.5 acres of shoreline along the Buena Vista Lagoon adjacent to the Carlsbad border just off Highway 78. Those hotels, one of which will be six stories high, will carry the Hilton nameplate.

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to tom.york@gmail.com.

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