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Affordable Housing Homelessness
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What is Affordable Housing & Why is it Important?

At least 7,600 people are experiencing homelessness every night in San Diego.

Of those, nearly 4,000 men, women, and children lie down to sleep each night on sidewalks, in doorways, canyons, and alleys. They live without regular access to food or water and no place to use the bathroom, wash their hands, bathe, or do laundry.

At Father Joe’s Villages, we believe that everyone deserves a safe place to call home. With San Diego’s record-breaking rent prices and the nation’s lowest vacancy rate, affordable housing is the largest barrier to solving homelessness in our city.

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing refers to housing units that are affordable for those whose income is below the median household income in the city or state they live in. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines an “affordable dwelling” as one that a household can obtain for 30% or less of its income.

Affordable housing offers rents to people at rates below the market rate, which allows people experiencing poverty to maintain housing.

Why is affordable housing in San Diego important?

San Diego’s homelessness crisis is an affordable housing crisis.

With an increasing number of individuals and families in San Diego spending more than half of their income on housing, many are only a few paychecks away from homelessness.

Half of all San Diego homeowners don’t make enough money to meet the region’s cost of living, with 60% of local renters falling short thousands of dollars per year.

When there’s so little remaining in the monthly budget, it’s impossible to save money for the future. This means that life events such as job loss, death in the family or health issues are more likely to result in homelessness.

According to HUD, an affordable rent for a low-income family would be about $1,500 per month, but the average rent in San Diego is $2,600. Affordable homeownership costs for a low-income family according to HUD would be a home priced under $225,000, but the average home in San Diego costs $800,000.

Right now, high rents in San Diego mean that even people with one or sometimes two minimum-wage jobs or with disability income cannot afford housing. They become trapped within the homeless services system, unable to move towards a permanent solution.

Not only that, but low vacancy rates among rental properties means rising rents for tenants— further worsening the homelessness crisis. Where will people move when their rent goes up and they can no longer afford it?

Without affordable housing options, these already struggling individuals will end up living on the streets.

Why is it hard to find affordable housing in San Diego?

With the average home price in San Diego over $800,000, many individuals and families find it impossible to invest in real estate. Skyrocketing home prices have forced middle- and low-income earners into a “renters’ market.”

According to Bloomberg, rental homes and apartments across the US are witnessing the lowest vacancy rates in 40 years. That means that more people are renting now than ever before and driving up competition in what was already a competitive renters’ market.

In the beginning of 2022, apartment occupancy hit an all-time high of 97.5%.

A low housing vacancy rate creates more competition for renters and increasing rent prices due to demand. This makes finding affordable housing difficult for currently homeless individuals and those already struggling to make ends meet.

With only a 2.5% housing vacancy driving up the price of rent, those needing affordable housing units now have fewer options.

How does Father Joe’s Villages help provide affordable housing?

Father Joe’s Villages sees that affordable housing is a critical component in preventing and ending homelessness.

In fact, in combination with comprehensive services, Father Joe’s Villages’ housing programs have helped more than 12,000 veterans, families, children, seniors, transition age youth, people who are disabled and single men and women achieve permanent housing in the last 10 years.

In addition to a full spectrum of housing options— from emergency and transitional housing to permanent supportive housing— Father Joe’s Villages owns and operates six affordable housing buildings with a total of over 400 affordable housing units, including:

  • 63-units in Villa Harvey Mandel*
  • 6-units in Village Place*
  • 123-units in 16th and Market streets building known as SAM *
  • 90-units in Commercial and 15th streets building known as C15*
  • 24-units in Boulevard Apartments in North Park
  • 26-units in Benson Place*
  • 137-unit in Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa*

These affordable housing buildings offer reasonably priced one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments to individuals in need. They have low-barriers to entry and are focused on providing empathic, individualized support to help people get back into permanent affordable housing as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, Father Joe’s Villages provides comprehensive supportive services to ensure that people have the tools they need to stay housed. Through these services, we can help people get back on their feet and achieve lasting housing stability.

*These housing communities also contain additional units of supportive housing, which offers rental subsidies to people who are chronically homelessness and living with a disability.

Turning the Key

Last year, in 2021, rent prices spiked by 18% and are still expected to increase in the future. With high demand and low vacancy rates, it’s expected that the lack of affordable housing is unlikely to resolve itself anytime soon. 

To further help combat San Diego’s housing crisis, Father Joe’s Villages has pledged to bring more affordable housing to San Diego with their Turning the Key Initiative.

Through the Turning the Key initiative, Father Joe’s Villages has committed to adding 2,000 units of affordable housing dedicated to neighbors overcoming homelessness, on top of the over 400 units already offered by the organization.

  • Benson Place:

Located in the South Bay area, Benson Place was the first project in Father Joe’s Villages’ Turning the Key initiative. Originally an old E-Z 8 Motel, Father Joe’s Villages remodeled the vacant building into 26 affordable housing apartments for people experiencing homelessness, including those with significant challenges such as mental illness and physical disabilities. Opened in August 2020, this affordable housing project houses 82-100 people. Residents living in Benson Place will have the powerful combination of affordable housing and supportive services needed to help them maintain housing long-term.

  • Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa:

Opened in January 2022, Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa will provide 137 affordable housing apartments to people overcoming homelessness. This 14-story affordable housing building is the second in Father Joe’s Villages’ Turning the Key plan to address the affordable housing crisis in San Diego. Situated adjacent to the St. Vincent de Paul Village campus, the complex will house more than 500 residents and offer access to an array of services including integrated behavioral and physical health care, mental health care, addiction treatment and more.

Supportive Housing

In addition to offering affordable housing apartments to people struggling with poverty and homelessness, Father Joe’s Villages also provides affordable units of Supportive Housing specifically for those living with disabilities and overcoming chronic homelessness.

Learn more here.

How to find affordable housing in San Diego with Father Joe’s Villages

Individuals in need of affordable housing in San Diego can contact the affordable housing building’s property manager to complete an application and be added to a wait list.

For those with disabilities and in need of supportive housing, the first step in accessing Father Joe’s Villages housing programs is through the county’s Coordinated Entry System (CES).

There are various resources to get a CES assessment, including:

  • The San Diego Day Center for Homeless Adults

299 17th Street

San Diego, CA 92101

  • Joan Kroc Center

1501 Imperial Avenue,

San Diego, CA 92101

  • Through the Regional Task Force on Homelessness
    Go to
    Click on Resource Library
    Click on CES for full list of CES assessment sites
  • Call 211 to be connected to additional County resources

After taking the CES assessment, qualified individuals in need could be matched to one of Father Joe’s Villages multiple supportive housing resources like Rapid Rehousing or Permanent Supportive Housing.