60 percent of SLO County renters struggle to afford housing — among the worst in the state

Most San Luis Obispo County renters struggle to pay their rent — a trend that impacts Californians coping with high housing costs throughout the state, according to a new Apartment List report.

Nearly 60% of renters in the county are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent, according to 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data compiled by Apartment List.

About 33% of renters facing affordability challenges here spend 30% to 49% of their income on housing and are moderately cost-burdened. Around 27% are severely cost-burdened and spend more than 50% of their pay on rent.

The county’s median renter income — meaning half of tenants earn more and half earn less — was $51,300 in 2018, up nearly 30% from 2008. The median rent was $1,430, almost 10% more expensive than a decade ago.

San Luis Obispo and Napa counties are tied for the fifth least-affordable areas in the state, just behind Humboldt, Riverside, Imperial and Santa Cruz counties.

Although the cost of rent has gone up in all those areas since 2008 — as much as 19.5% in Santa Cruz County — wages have gone down or risen more slowly.

Incomes in San Luis Obispo and Napa counties rose more than any of those in the most expensive counties, and wages actually went down in Imperial and Riverside counties.

“Housing costs have amplified growing economic inequality in recent years,” the report reads. “Those at the low end of the income distribution have seen their housing costs grow disproportionately fast, while the highest earners have actually seen their housing costs fall.”

Almost half of all American renter households are cost-burdened, and one in three tenants struggling with housing costs live in California, New York or Florida, according to the report.

This holds true in California, where highly paid Bay Area tenants with more expensive rents don’t struggle with housing costs as much as residents in other areas of the state.

Only 48% of renters are cost-burdened in pricey San Mateo County, where the area’s median rent is $2,389.

Even renters in inland areas — known for being the least expensive in the state — struggle with housing costs. About 56% of Fresno County renters are cost-burdened, as are 57% of tenants in Tulare County and 55% in Sacramento County.

For more information, visit apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/cost-burden-2019.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, North County communities and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. Lindsey is a native Californian raised in the Midwest and earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.