New homes in North County. Image from Newland Sierra brochure

San Diego County is in the midst of a severe housing crisis that affects every single neighborhood from San Ysidro to Escondido and from El Cajon to Oceanside. As housing construction continues to decline in the region, elected officials and civic leaders are working on solutions to increase housing options for our workforce. We must act quickly and responsibly in every way we can so that local families are no longer forced to relocate to Riverside County and beyond for affordable housing options not available in San Diego County.

In the business community, employers know that their workforce is being increasingly squeezed by the high cost of housing that is driven up by an acute lack of supply. We knew it was happening, but we didn’t have the data to quantify the extent to which this is occurring. That is, until recently. A new report by Fehr & Peers, released by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, put numbers to the crisis many of us suspected.

The report showed that 87 percent of the traffic on Interstate 15 destined for San Diego County originates in Riverside County, where housing is attainable for a typical working family. More than 50,000 people live in Riverside County and commute an average of two hours to and from San Diego County every day.

This commute length is a disservice to a workforce that is critical for San Diego County’s economy, and exacerbates existing challenges to reaching our sustainability goals as cars idle on congested freeways. The simple fact is that if housing opportunities were available for working families in San Diego, those untenable commutes to and from Riverside County would be eliminated.

We have to do better for our working families. Innovative solutions like Measure B on San Diego County voters’ ballots this March will help mitigate the crisis by providing 2,135 homes on a transportation corridor that will serve more than 283,000 North San Diego County jobs.

Voting “yes” on B will provide critically-needed homes in North San Diego County, less than two miles from Escondido, Vista and San Marcos. Of these homes, 1,331 of them will be priced for working families and seniors.

Home prices are guaranteed by a legally-binding covenant placed on the Newland Sierra property that was filed with the San Diego County Assessor’s office on Dec. 4, 2019. Known as the Workforce Affordable Housing Program Affordability Component, those homes will be attainable by the majority of San Diego’s workforce.

As current projections show, the county’s population will rise by more than 750,000 by 2050. We have to provide solutions that keep our workforce and economy strong. Employers consider things like affordability and opportunities for home ownership for their employees when deciding where to open their business. San Diego must rise to the challenge of providing the homes our workforce deserves.

Housing is a serious issue faced by our region’s workforce that impacts our lives every day. Voting “yes” on B this March will help us reach a solution.

Stefanie Benvenuto is vice president of public affairs for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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