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San Diego County housing values have fallen about 40% from their late 2005 peak, but housing costs still eat up 29.4% of San Diegans' cost of living, according to economist Kelly Cunningham of National University System Institute of Policy Research.

This compares with 20.5% for the 18 large metro areas detailed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Renters are hurting. Over the past four years, San Diegans' expenditures on mortgage payments have fallen 17.2%, while rent expenditures have jumped 30%, or two and a half times the national average, says Cunningham.

San Diego housing prices are still among the highest in the nation, and now with gasoline prices at $4.35 a gallon, San Diegans are suffering a squeeze. San Diego's 3% inflation rate tops that of Los Angeles (2.7%) and San Francisco (2.6%).

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