San Diego County expands rental subsidy program for older adults

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Article by Katie Anastas  |  See full article at KPBS

When Fidel Sanchez retired six years ago after decades as a machinist, he felt ready to live within his means.

“When I retired, my retirement income was enough to live — not rich, but well, more or less,” he said in Spanish. “But the pandemic started, and everything started to go up.”

Sanchez lives in a one-bedroom apartment in University City. He said he started out paying $1,700 a month for rent there in 2019. At the time, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego was $1,950. Five years later, he’s spending $2,700 a month on rent, plus about $100 on utilities. This month’s median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,350, according to the real estate website Zumper.

He’s considered moving, but he said there aren’t many better options.

“I like this place because it’s very peaceful,” he said. “I’ve gone to other places, like Chula Vista, and the rent is actually the same as this area. So why would I move?”

Sanchez is one of 222 participants in San Diego County’s shallow rental subsidy pilot program, meant to help older adults stay in their homes and connect to other services.

Before getting the subsidy, Sanchez said he had to ask his daughter for help paying rent. This spring, the county’s program started sending $500 directly to his landlord each month.

“There’s not as much pressure now that I have the $500,” he said. “Before, I would have to go look for the money.”

The county launched the rental subsidy pilot program in early 2023. It’s now accepting applications for 160 more households. Participants must be at least 55 years old, pay more than half of their income on housing costs and have a household income at or below 50% of the area median income.

In San Diego County, more than one-third of renters over 65 spend the majority of their income on rent.

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