Home is where the safety net is.
For many young people who can't find work or are toiling in dead-end jobs, returning home is becoming a growing option.
Even if it means sleeping in Batman or Little Mermaid sheets again ...
A recent study done by the National University System Institute for Policy Research shows that San Diego's household size has risen from 2.7 to 2.8 persons per households over the course of the recession. San Diego's population has grown 4.2 percent in that timeframe, but the number of households has grown only 1.7 percent.
"To a large extent the researchers found young people are being forced by circumstances to remain in their parent's home longer than they would have in previous generations,” according to the report.
Even college graduates are impacted because of the sour job market for young people and because they may have student debt burdening them.
It's a national trend, but it's made worse in San Diego, given how expensive housing is. Average rent in San Diego? It's now $1,092 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, according to the San Diego County Apartment Association.
Home prices? About the only recent college graduates who can afford a San Diego home wear helmets with lightning bolts on them. The median price is now $500,000.
San Diego is the nation’s 10th least affordable housing market out of 224 metro areas across the nation, according to Kelly Cunningham, senior fellow and economist for the National University System Institute for Policy Research.
And that's a factor when it comes to the falling population of a key demographic that powers the housing market, he said.
“San Diego’s 30-44 year old population is declining or moving away and seem to be taking their children with them,” Cunningham said. “This is the population most likely to be first time home buyers, but find they cannot afford to purchase a home and apparently move away.”
The loss is significant. The population of people in that age group in 2008 was 689,660 but fell to 639,007 in 2013, a 7.3 percent drop.
These trends could spell trouble for the local economy.
If young people aren't moving into their own households in as large as numbers as before, there's less demand for new houses.
Residential construction fell to 3,000 in 2009, from a previous average of between 15,000 and 16,000 annually, the study said. The numbers have risen to more than 8,000 last year, but that's half of the pre-recession figures.
Naturally, construction and real estate-related jobs have been impacted. Thousands of jobs have been lost.
The study is blunt about the impact:
“A moribund housing market saps the strength of the economy. Two-thirds of America’s GDP is attributable to consumer spending and a big driver of that is the buying and outfitting of new homes. Until rates of household formation return to historic rates, San Diego’s residential housing economy is likely to remain stuck in 2nd gear and unlikely to be the jobs engine it has been in years past.”
Cunningham isn't certain if there's an easy solution.
"Building more affordable housing for starter families, instead of more expensive McMansions, in suburbia is one answer, but with development fees and high costs of land, that is not happening, “ he said. “Two or more unmarried young adults may join together to rent or buy condos downtown or near work centers, but that does not work so well when they want to pair up, have children, and start their own households.
"San Diego just does not seem to be a place to start a family, unless they have multi-generations living under the same roof, or inherit a house from parents or grandparents.”