It hasn’t been this hard to find an apartment in San Diego County in a dozen years.

The San Diego County Apartment Association reported Tuesday that the apartment vacancy rate in the county is down to 2.8 percent. That means if you’re looking for a place to rent, only 2.8 percent of the units would be available. Last year at this time, the vacancy rate was almost double at 4.5 percent, about the historic average.

“This is an unbelievably low vacancy rate for our region,” Alan Pentico, the association’s executive director, said in a statement. “The last time we saw numbers this low was in 2002, when the overall vacancy rate was 2.5 percent. The demand for rental housing just keeps getting stronger.”

The association reports a boost in rental property ownership, as more people buy single-family homes and rent them out. Further, despite an increase in permitting and construction of apartment units, the demand still outpaces the supply.

Alan Nevin, an apartment industry analyst with Xpera, said about 20,000 units are going to be built in the county in the next three to five years, but that won’t be enough to lighten the demand.

“With the exception of just a couple of years, the apartment vacancy rates here have remained very, very low,” he said. “Unlike some other places like Las Vegas and Phoenix, we rarely overbuild.”

Despite the lower supply, the average rent in San Diego County fell to $1,260 per month, down from $1,330 a year ago. The association did not cite a specific reason for the drop, other than varying levels of responses in different ZIP codes. The bi-annual survey goes out to thousands of rental properties, including complexes and single family homes.

When it comes to individual units, the average rent for a studio was $901 per month; $1,092 for a one-bedroom; $1,347 for a two bedroom, and $1,716 for a three bedroom unit. Nevin said demand for two and three-bedroom units is especially high because not only are they sought by families, but also young professionals who want to split rent but have their own rooms.

This article was originally published in the San Diego Union Tribune and can be found in its entirety HERE.