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The Most Affordable Places To Live In San Diego
Real Estate

The Most Affordable Places To Live In San Diego

With idyllic weather, great food, and access to the coast S.D. is the place to be. These are the most affordable places to live in San Diego


5 min read

October 19, 2020

California is home to many affordable places to live, but San Diego is the place to dwell well! San Diego is all about the California sun, West Coast vibe, and mixing luxurious and affordable neighborhoods. Though it's known for its high cost of living and expensive neighborhoods, San Diego also boasts a range of affordable living options. With a diverse population and awesome food, this pricey region is home to less expensive suburbs. Read on to learn about San Diego’s most affordable places to live.

Affordable Cities Near San Diego

With a prime location, stunning views, and family-friendly attractions, Chula Vista is an excellent place to call home.

Chula Vista

The name Chula Vista simply translates to “beautiful view” and we must agree! With affordable housing options, Chula Vista is the go-to neighborhood for newly founded families to settle down and for more established individuals to invest in a California vacation home. Located near San Diego Bay’s beaches, the suburb provides great ocean views and a calming retreat. 

Chula Vista is the 15th largest city in the state with a population of 271,651. The city’s school district includes 52 public schools and 16 private schools—making it a perfect locale for families with children. Chula Vista also has a large Hispanic community and is booming with shops and restaurants.

Only 11 minutes (by car) from Balboa Park, the family-friendly atmosphere in Chula Vista highlights the city’s best attribute. Annual events such as the CiclaVista open up the streets to everything but vehicles. Joggers, roller skaters, bikers, and skateboarders, can all travel along the streets of Chula Vista. Kids can also gather at the Living Coast Discovery Center to learn about marine life in the Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. The center displays permanent exhibits of the region’s native animals and plants, offering an exceptional learning experience. Families can enjoy Sunday picnicks together at Bayside Park—a gorgeous waterfront stretch lined with walking trails and a pier—to make the most of their time in Chula Vista.

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With natural beauty and affordable housing, El Cajon is an underrated city. Photo courtesy of @iluvlife75 and Mission Trails Regional Park.

El Cajon

El Cajon houses are fairly priced to accommodate all income brackets—including some of the most affordable neighborhoods in San Diego. The name El Cajon means “the box” in Spanish—a fitting name considering that the town is surrounded by mountains. Though the city is small at 14.4 square miles, it’s full of history and modern-day amenities.

El Cajon boasts great schools, including 21 public elementary schools, 6 public middle schools, and 7 seven public high schools. The city is a hub for diverse cuisine, offering locals and tourists multiple dining options. For breakfast, many residents make their way to Perry’s Cafe on Magnolia Avenue to indulge in all-American dishes and an old fashioned, rustic ambiance. 

Strap on your sturdy boots, grab your water bottles, and head to the closeby Mission Trails Regional Park to trek along the Cowles Mountain Trail. El Cajon also offers plenty of outdoor spaces including Wells Park, Mount Helix Park, and Harry Griffen Park. Aside from its environmentally friendly activities, the city provides family entertainment and events throughout the year. The annual St. Patrick’s Day Half Marathon is sure to get everyone up and running every March. In November, the city welcomes the cold season and the holidays with the annual Mother Goose Parade. The city of El Cajon is also home to other family-friendly attractions including the Water Conservation Garden and Butterfly Garden, Summers Past Farms, and Parkway Plaza Mall

Poway offers an idyllic mix of country and city life. Visit Lake Poway to escape for an hour or two.


With a rich rural history, Poway is known as “The City in the Country” and is one of the most affordable cities near San Diego. The 39 square mile city avidly devotes its green areas and open spaces to environmental preservation. 

Poway is home to many great schools, including 25 elementary schools, 6 middle schools, and 5 high schools. The city has many thriving neighborhoods which range from affordable housing to luxurious homesteads. Residential communities such as Silver Saddle Ranch and Green Valley offer great upscale country living choices. Newly settled families will love having breakfast at Cully’s, a country themed restaurant with a rich menu of American goodies. Art-loving neighbors ought to visit the Poway Center for the Performing Arts. Featuring professional plays and concerts, this center has a busy schedule that keeps residents coming back for more. 

Boasting an environmentally friendly lifestyle, Poway is home to many lakes, parks, and reserves. Lake Poway is a pure reservoir and a popular hotspot for fishing during the summer months. Enhance your family day trip by renting kayaks at the Lake Poway Concession Stand and tackling the water. Hiking enthusiasts should visit the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, a 700-acre canyon packed year-round with flora and fauna. There are also plenty of kid-friendly hikes; the Creekside Trail offers narrow and well maintained paths that are perfect for all ages. In the middle of the city, residents will be charmed by Poway Community Park where kids and adults can indulge in a wide range of outdoor activities —with everything from a skate park and ball fields, to an adventure playground and a place to let your furry little friends run wild.

While Mira Mesa is close to the city of San Diego, its wide-open spaces allow you to enjoy the natural beauty of the region.

Mira Mesa

With 72,759 residents, Mira Mesa is a highly populated neighborhood north of San Diego that’s packed with natural wonders and city amenities. Families can enjoy hiking among waterfalls and forested areas in the Los Penasquitos Preserve. More than 175 species of birds call this park home, so make sure to bring a camera to capture their beauty. The Loan Penasquitos Canyon Trail is another great option; the 7.2-mile loop trail is suitable for all levels and the waterfall on the trail is an added bonus. This is the best path for the entire family to get some good exercise—and since it’s dog-friendly, nobody has to be separated from their pup.

The suburban vibe of Mira Mesa attracts families from all around. Residents get all the benefits of a big city—including plenty of shopping locations, large festivals, and local events—without the hustle and bustle of an urban environment. The town is known for its annual San Diego Tết Festival, which celebrates Vietnamese New Year. Guests enjoy carnival rides, lion dancing, singing competitions, and plenty of entertainment.

Mira Mesa residents enjoy close proximity to San Diego’s coveted Gaslamp Quarter. The 16 block stretch of old Victorian houses features small boutiques, art galleries, and plenty of restaurants. Plan your perfect getway to Downtown San Diego and dine at local joints such as Osterio Panevino to indulge in refined Italian cuisine.

San Diego combines the charm of a small country town with the entertainment of a big city, but if you’re looking to move up north, the Bay Area also has affordable places to live. 

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