A 205-unit, 12-story development called Atmosphere is expected to complete construction in February 2017, paving the way for Downtown San Diego to take the edge off its housing supply crisis.

Located at 1453 4th Avenue — mere blocks from the site of the California Theatre, now under redevelopment into another apartment complex called the Overture — Atmosphere provides twofold benefits to city residents:

  • 154 units dedicated to San Diegans employed locally; and
  • 51 units for formerly homeless San Diegans.

Atmosphere’s units, ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments, will rent for approximately $390 – $1200 and are reserved for residents making 30% to 60% of the San Diego median income. The current median income for a family of four is approximately $63,400.

Additionally, Atmosphere will offer daily transitional services for its formerly homeless residents, including financial literacy workshops and workforce development training. These benefits are critical opportunities; San Diego ranked fourth nationally for the highest homeless population in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR). The county’s homeless population has steadily grown from twelfth-highest ranking in 2007.

Thus, Atmosphere is a huge progressive step forward for both homeless residents and locals struggling to remain living where they work. Homelessness issues in nearby Los Angeles and Orange County have spurred activists to push for similar supportive housing projects, aiming for the same benefits and transitional services for their residents that Atmosphere will provide for San Diegans.

Homelessness and affordable housing in San Diego

Atmosphere’s future residents have one thing in common: they have likely been pushed out of the low-tier housing market due to excessive home price increases in the mid- and high-tiers. When mid-tier home prices rise beyond buyers’ means, typically mid-tier homebuyers turn to low-tier housing instead. When mid-tier homebuyers trade down, those who ordinarily would have taken up low-tier housing are left to fend for themselves in California’s ferocious urban rental markets.

Come 2017, Atmosphere will be there to catch some of these residents boxed out of the market. Further, Atmosphere’s workshops and support services will increase the chances of formerly homeless residents ultimately entering the housing market after a transitional layover in the complex.

Real estate agents who assist tenants seeking low-cost housing need to keep an eye out for projects like Atmosphere and other below-market copy-cat projects. The tenant interest list for Atmosphere residence is still open, and applicants will be contacted in October 2016 with further information. Although the waiting list is likely to be extensive, Atmosphere’s brazen forage into the notoriously expensive San Diego rental market is a beacon for future projects seeking change to follow.