75,000 Homes in San Diego County Are Vacant

by on October 26, 2023 · 18 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Earlier this month U-T reporter Phillip Molnar wrote that a new study by Lending Tree, a loan website, determined that “6 percent of homes in the San Diego metropolitan area — which includes all of San Diego County — are vacant. In terms of raw numbers, that is 74,936 homes.”

Again, that is nearly 75,000 homes, houses, apartments, condos, studios, ADUs – that are taking up space that have no humans in them. In an area in an affordable housing crisis, that’s an astounding number.

Now, Molnar downplayed the impact of this number on San Diego and reassured his readers that, ‘hey, that’s not that bad as it sounds because “San Diego is ranked No. 36 out of the 50 biggest metros.”” And it’s only 6%. San Diego Union-Tribune

Molnar tried to allay our astonishment with comparisons to other cities:

New Orleans had the most vacant homes at 13.9 percent, followed by Miami (12.7 percent) and Tampa (12.2 percent). Minneapolis had the least vacant, at 4.5 percent, followed by Austin (4.6 percent) and Washington, D.C. (5 percent).

Overall however, “nearly 5.5 million homes sit vacant across the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.” Now, that’s a huge number.

So, why are all these homes vacant?

Lending Tree says many are vacant because:

  • they wait to be rented,
  • are sold but not occupied yet,
  • are used for migrant workers for part of the year,
  • foreclosures and other legal proceedings,
  • repair work,
  • seasonal, recreational or occasional use – short-term rentals.

What about just for San Diego County?

Molnar: “Properties — 30.3 percent — that are used for seasonal, recreational or occasional purposes. That includes vacation rentals not rented at the moment and owners that might only stay the summer in San Diego. This accounts for 22,735 homes.”

Other big reasons why San Diego homes are vacant:

  • Waiting to be rented (26.5 percent),
  • sold but not yet occupied (6.6 percent),
  • undergoing renovations (6.4 percent), and
  • homes empty as they are waiting to be sold (5.2 percent).

These numbers are a lot to munch on.  In 2023, San Diego County has 3,319,000 residents.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat S October 26, 2023 at 2:28 pm

And who knows how many ADU’s, and STR’s, are really in San Diego, since the owners of the ADU’s started calling them everything under the sun, except ADU’s. Granny flats, artist studio, garage conversion, room additions, guest quarters all with bathrooms and kitchenettes…. so many adjectives. Makes me wonder if the DSD counted them all as ADU’s for the lottery, or if they counted them at all. And then there’s the ones that didn’t get Permits, so the City doesn’t know about them. Seems to me we don’t have a housing crisis in SD, we have a payment to developers going on.

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Mateo October 26, 2023 at 4:08 pm

The time has come for the People to call for Mayor Gloria’s resignation. Corrupted City officials have paid millions to “Circulate San Diego” to provide falsified manipulated industry supplied data to push this narrative that San Diego has but a 1% vacancy rate citywide.

KPBS and Andrew Keats in particular, have betrayed San Diegans incessantly by repeatedly propagating this myth of the “San Diego housing shortage”. KPBS has really done a number on us, but they are far from the only profiteers. Gentrification money kept the Union-Tribune on what life support it had left. Corporate Media owned KFMB,KGTV and Comcast KNSD have received hundred of millions of dollars for advertising from everyone from Rocket to Redfin; and every greedy corporate player monopolizing housing and committing acts of genocide through the unmitigated politico-corporate real estate complex’s hyper-gentrification.

About a hundred thousand more luxury units will flood our market in the next 18-24 months to keep rents rising. Further manipulating the market with no end game but catastrophic collapse, globally. Todd Gloria should put a “Mission Accomplished” banner over Tent Town and celebrate the mass displacement of Californians with his lobbyists and Oligarchs.

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retired botanist October 26, 2023 at 4:55 pm

Thumbs up.

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chris schultz October 27, 2023 at 8:02 am

Hey Ms. Botanist,
I have a very large Indian Laurel/Ficus that’s dumping on my backyard with berries. outside of cutting it down or expensive chemical injections, is there any other way? I’d make money if the berries were worth harvesting. LOL

Saw a news blip the other day about taxing vacant properties around SF. Which after property taxes would amount to double taxation. But this is the Sacramento mind set. Owners ability to evict renters is an issue. So many directions to go in this discussion.

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FrankF October 27, 2023 at 1:40 pm

Do ya really think there are 75,000 empty dwelling units in San Diego??

Look at your own neighborhood. I don’t know about you but in my upper OB neighborhood there is one (1) home that is empty out of at least 100, because the owner is in a nursing home. I’ve lived in my house for 45 years, I know my neighbors.

And rentals waiting for a tenant may be empty 1 month a year, so is that one dwelling unit that is empty counted as 1/12th of an empty unit?

I dunno, the number sounds fishy.

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Frank Gormlie October 27, 2023 at 1:46 pm

It’s incredible, isn’t it?! It’s unbelievable! Short term rentals alone take their toll.

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kh October 27, 2023 at 2:44 pm

Well about 500 of the homes (7%) in your OB neighborhood are considered vacant just by virtue of airbnb usage.

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FrankF October 27, 2023 at 3:22 pm

I don’t want to split hairs, but accuracy is really important, so is language. If 500 units are Airbnbs, they’re certainly not 100% vacant.

Again, 75,000. empty dwelling units doesn’t pass the sniff test. A house or apartment costs money if you have a mortgage, and generates money if it’s a rental. To have that many units sit empty doesn’t make economic sense.

But as the kids say, whatever.

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kh October 27, 2023 at 3:57 pm

They are housing units, and they don’t have any residents in them. Those visitors reside elsewhere. Likewise, my home is not considered vacant just because I might be at work.

Some of these short-term rentals are even being built using density bonuses and housing subsidies. At least the ADUs don’t allow for it.

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Mateo October 28, 2023 at 10:23 am

Metrics matter. An accurate number of vacancies can be obtained through the U.S. Post Office. You remember, what we use for upcoming draft that is sure to come our way as military enlistment is down 30% as we’re bombing in Syria without an approval from Congress, and fighting two proxy wars in Ukraine and Israel, while we poke China in the eye in Taiwan.

Circulate San Diego uses an unnecessary and overly complicated method of manipulatable SDG&E data. Vancouver BC and Sydney use water usage and tax vacant propery owners on an exponential scale.

Oh and by the way the Governor is now blaming homelessness on California residents as if we somehow legislatively accelerated evictions at warp speed.

California Democrat no more!

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Geoff Page October 31, 2023 at 1:26 pm

So, I’m wondering, how is a vacancy rate established? I don’t know but the first thought that came to mind was owners and renters. Owner information is probably pretty reliable. But, what about renters? Is there a database that establishes what homes are rented?

Then, finally, what do they mean by “vacant?” Does that mean a home that has no owner or renter associated with it? If so, would that not include STVRs that may be occupied only part time and have no full time resident. That 75,000 vacant number may be correct only for some of that total. The balance is probably STVRs counted as vacant but are clearly not.

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FrankF October 31, 2023 at 1:50 pm

Geoff….the Southern California Rental Housing Association polls their apartment owning members on a regular basis on month by month vacancies and rental rates. I don’t know if those numbers are public, but you might ask them.

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Jw October 27, 2023 at 3:19 pm

According to SANDAG’s April 1, 2020 Mission Beach Population and Housing Estimates, MB’s population is 5763 and the average number of people per household is 2.1.

According to Airbnb there are:
1000+ STRs that allow 8 guest per day = 8,000 people per day
1000+ STRs that allow 10 guests per day = 10,000 people per day
744 that allow 12 guest per day = 8,928 people per day
326 that allow 16+ per day = at 16, 5216 people per day

So, if 1000 STRs operate at full capacity year round, with 10 people per day, that means the daily population of STR customers in MB is 10,000. This means that the real daily population of MB is actually 15,736 not 5,736.

I can hear it now, “hey wait minute there is no way that these STR’s operate at full capacity year round.” Well, show me the authoritative and credible government data that clearly demonstrates STRs in Mission Beach don’t operate at near or full capacity year round. Even if they operate between 50%-75% capacity, 80% of the time, that still translates into a dramatic increase in daily population.

Just because STR customers that stay in Mission Beach are transient that does not mean that they are ghosts. They have physical bodies. They drive, bicycle and walk. They use broadband and electricity. They eat and drink. They produce garbage and food waste. They take showers and go to the bathroom. In other words, they use the public infrastructure on daily basis and have a significant impact on its wear and tear.

If the city of San Diego applies for a federal grant that will benefit the citizens of Mission Beach and that grant application requires a population count, what number would they use? Sandbags 2.1? Or is there some other authoritative statistic that the local and national public should be aware of? Federal grants are funded by everybody’s tax dollars.

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Mateo October 29, 2023 at 9:32 am

Tourists do not pay income tax. Tourists do not provide critical services, and they most certainly don’t fill potholes. Over 70% of the homes sold in San Diego have gone to Real Estate Croporations and LLC’s. Almost all are owned out of state. Rents are extracted from San Diego and never become part of our economy. AirBNB owners regularly rely on our local police department for property management, for free.

Anyone who has walked Mission Bay Boradwalk from December to April can tell you your AirBNB provided nmbers are skewed heavily by reality.

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kh October 31, 2023 at 10:42 am

I don’t think the point of this exercise is to fret about how many water meters are spinning, or how many sewer lines are flowing at capacity.

The point is, we are so up in arms about lack of housing, and housing is getting built, but in many cases being used as hotel lodging instead. So understandably some are upset about all these density bonuses overriding their local zoning laws, without much to show for it but some more luxury property investments and side income for the owners/hosts (some out of state) who are living large in the top 10% bracket. But there is no shortage of hotel rooms. They city is buying under-performing hotels and converting them into shelters for homeless, including migrants.

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Prologue October 28, 2023 at 3:36 pm

According to SANDAG’s April 1, 2020 Mission Beach Population and Housing Estimates, MB has 3,602 housing dwellings. The total population is 5763 and the average number of persons per household is 2.11.

According to Airbnb there are:
1000+ STRs that allow 8 guest per day = 8,000 people per day
1000+ STRs that allow 10 guests per day = 10,000 people per day
744 that allow 12 guest per day = 8,928 people per day
326 that allow 16+ per day, at 16 = 5,216people per day

Assume for the sake argument that 1000 STRs operate at full capacity year round, with 10 people per day, that means the daily habitation population of STR customers in MB is 10,000. This means that the real daily habitation population of MB is actually 15,736 not 5,736.

I can hear it now, “hey wait minute there is no way that these STR’s operate at full capacity year round.” Well, show me the official, authoritative, and credible government data that clearly demonstrates STRs in Mission Beach don’t operate at near or full capacity year round. Even if they operate between 50%-75% capacity, 80% of the time, that still translates into a dramatic increase in the daily habitation population

Just because STR customers that stay in Mission Beach are a revolving door of transients that does not mean that they are ghosts. They have physical bodies. They drive, bicycle and walk. They use broadband and electricity. They cook, eat and drink. They produce garbage and food waste. They take showers and flush toilets. In other words, they use the public infrastructure on daily basis and would appear to have a significant and disproportionate impact on its wear and tear.

If the City of San Diego applies for a federal grant that will benefit the citizens of Mission Beach and that grant application requires a population & household count what number would they use? SANDAG’s 5, 763 with 2.11 per household? Would they also use some additional official authoritative statistic that accurately measures STR transient habitation? Federal grants are funded by everybody’s tax dollars

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Prologue October 30, 2023 at 10:15 pm

According to SANDAG’s April 1, 2020 Population and Housing Estimates Mission Beach Community Planning Area: Mission Beach’s Vacancy rate was 24.2%.

How does SANDAG define the word vacancy?

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Prologue October 31, 2023 at 5:29 pm

Just read the “Residential Vacancies in the City of San Diego September 2021” by the San Diego Housing Commission. Some good information. The report gives examples of how nine cities define the term “vacant”

For example,

“Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, California
Author:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Year: 2017
Definition of vacant:
A housing unit is vacant if no one is living in it at the time of the Census interview, unless its occupants are only temporarily absent. A unit is considered occupied if it is the occupant’s primary residence.
Dataset(s) used:
U.S. Census Bureau“

After reading this I went to US Census Bureau’s website and read the sample questionnaires from the 2010 and 2020 Decennial Census . It would appear that an owner of a Non-Owner-Occupied Short Term Rental could not have answered these questions as the questions are for those who live most of the time in that dwelling. So I suppose their only option was to mark their rental as a vacation home, but I could not locate that option or another possible option on the sample forms that I was viewing. I suppose that information is located somewhere on their webpage.

However, I did find the following information which I quote below from the website of:
”The Data Center Independent Analysis for Informed Decisions in Southeast Louisiana” They state that they are a Neutral Nonprofit.

“WHAT IF I OWN A VACATION HOME AND RECEIVE A CENSUS LETTER THERE, TOO?

The Census Bureau’s mandate is to count all residents where they live most of the time. Even if you happen to have been at your second home on April 1, 2020 due to the pandemic, the Census Bureau’s aim is to count you only once, and in your primary residence. You should not count yourself as living at a “second home” or vacation home on a census survey.

That said, for a vacation home or second home, it would be quite helpful to the Census Bureau if you would respond to the census survey indicating that zero people were living there on April 1, 2020. By reporting to the Census Bureau that an address is a second or vacation home, the Census Bureau can avoid sending an enumerator to that home to verify that it is vacant.

To indicate to the Census Bureau that an address is a second or vacation home, go to my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020.

For the question “Including yourself, how many people were living or staying at _______ on April 1, 2020?” your response should be “0” even if you happened to be in this home on April, 1, 2020. The Census wants to count you only once and at your primary address.

After two more prompts to confirm that zero people live at this address, the website will then ask “What is the primary reason why no one was living or staying at ________ on April 1, 2020?” Select “For Seasonal, recreational or occasional use”. “

I do not know if there was option for an owner of Non-Owner-Occupied Short Term Rental.

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