According to the latest estimates based on data from July 2014 to July 2015, about 9,370 more San Diego County residents packed up and left compared with those who moved here from other areas of the United States.
The data go back as far back as 2010 and show that San Diego’s negative net domestic migration of more than 9,000 — the difference between who moves here and who moves away — is a new low for the six-year period. The previous record was about 12 times smaller, a loss of 790 people.
Some experts are pointing fingers at the growing cost of housing, which has pushed some residents out and prevented new ones from moving in.
According to Borre Winckel, president of the local Building Industry Association, regulation costs have forced builders to shy away from building entry-level homes that would be affordable for the low-to-middle class. This lack of new housing contributes to rising home prices and rents.
Only 229 single-family homes built in the county last year were under $500,000, Winckel said, and certain families are either stuck in homes that no longer meet their needs or forced to find housing in other areas.
According to a survey of 27 metropolitan areas by Realtor.com, San Diegans need to make $103,165 a year to afford a median-priced home — including the principal, interest, taxes and insurance payments. The per capita income in San Diego County is about $51,459, based on 2014 Census reports.
Apartment List Rentonomics recently reported that more than a quarter of San Diego renters are spending half of their income on rent as well.
“It’s gotten to the point where the local Carlsbad cop has to move to Riverside because he can’t afford to live where his job is anymore,” Borre said. “But that’s the reality we’re literally living in now.”
Mark Goldman, a loan officer and real-estate lecturer at San Diego State University, said this could have a negative impact on businesses looking to fill positions with recruits from outside the county.
“(Employees) may not be able to enjoy the lifestyle that they could at a different job, even at a lower wage, because housing and the cost of living is so high here,” Goldman said.
However, Goldman said San Diego’s cost of housing and its unusually negative net domestic migration might not be a cause for concern yet, especially when the number is put into context with the county’s total population of nearly 3.3 million.
The drop in domestic migration didn’t hurt San Diego’s standing on a national level. It is still the fifth most populated county in the country, a title it has claimed for at least the last six years. Los Angeles is still the nation’s most populous county, with 10.2 million people on July 1, 2015. Cook County, Ill., falls in second with 5.2 million but experienced its first population decline since 2007, data show.
San Diego’s overall population increased by about 1.3 percent from 2014 to 2015, almost the same as the increase the prior year. Growth is also slow on a national level, with San Diego ranking 448th in the country, excluding counties with fewer than 10,000 people. Counties with similar growth rates include Swain County, North Carolina, and Rogers County, Oklahoma.
The four fastest-growing counties are all in North Dakota. McKenzie County’s population grew by about 17 percent, followed by Williams at 10 percent, Mountrail at 6 percent and Stark County at 5 percent.
They are followed by counties in Texas, Colorado, Utah and Florida, which all landed in the top 20. California counties do not appear until well past the 150 mark, and not one grew more than 1.8 percent.
Beth Jarosz, a senior research associate at Population Reference Bureau and former analyst for the San Diego Association of Governments, said the relationship between domestic migration and the housing market is like a Facebook relationship status: It’s complicated.
“High cost of living can be a deterrent to growth,” Jarosz said. “But places wouldn’t have a high cost of living if there were no demand from people to live there in the first place.”
Jarosz added that the numbers are estimates and should be taken lightly, considering that small fluctuations year to year could be a result of a change in modeling techniques or reporting, as much as true variation.
“If you saw this pattern for several years, it would signal larger forces afoot,” she said. “But a single year does not a trend make — especially in a location like San Diego.”
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