San Luis Obispo ranked number one for unaffordable rental costs

July 21, 2020


City of San Luis Obispo residents pay the most in rent, proportional to their income, in the United States, according to a recent study by Insurify.

The study found that 43.43 percent of renters in SLO are spending more than 50 percent of their gross household income on rent. The average rent in SLO is $1,459 while more than 30 percent of the population falls under the poverty line, according to the study.

Two cities in San Luis Obispo County made the more affordable list. In Paso Robles, only 13.49 percent of renters pay more than 50 percent of their household income on rent, followed by Atascadero at 14.18 percent.

Researchers took the estimated number of renters paying 50 percent or more of their household income on gross rent in the past 12 months and compared it to the total number of renters, in cities with a population of over 50,000, to calculate their results. The study garnered median gross rental costs and the percent of the population falling below the poverty line from the American Community Survey’s most recent calculations and the U.S. Census Bureau.

If a family’s total income is less than their designated poverty threshold, they are considered to be under the poverty line.

Of SLO’s 46,997 residents, 32.4 percent fall under the poverty line, according to Data USA.

Of those, Hispanics appear to be disproportionately impacted: they are 3.2 percent of SLO’s overall population, and 13.6 percent of city residents who are living below the poverty line.

Poverty level by race in SLO in 2017:

White: 84.19 percent of the population, and 72.1 percent of people in SLO living below the poverty line
Asian: 5.80 percent of the population, and 5.3 percent of people in SLO living below the poverty line
Hispanic: 3.20 percent of the population, and 13.6 percent of people in SLO living below the poverty line
Black or African American: 2.20 percent of the population, and 2.45 percent of people in SLO living below the poverty line

With an 11.2 percent unemployment rate in San Luis Obispo County, propelled primarily by the coronavirus pandemic, many residents are having difficulty paying their rents. In SLO County, renters impacted by the pandemic, are protected from eviction until 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifts the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

County officials recommend those unable to pay their rent on time, because of the pandemic, work with their landlords on a repayment plan.


SLO is a pretty unique environment. There are few high paying jobs, a large portion of the housing caters to the tourist industry (short term rentals), a lot of wealth has moved into the area in the last couple decades, limited room for growth, rich students (parents) and it’s a pretty amazing place all around. There is really no such thing as cheap rent in the area. I recently rented my apt to a friend and have to take a pretty big hit on the monthly rent because there is no way they could afford, as a local service worker, what I could ask. I wonder how many of the landlords in this area are actually corporate entities.


Places of great beauty, and that offer an exceptional lifestyle and a job(s), have very high rents. Demand drives the price up. This is a world wide phenomena.

Possible individual SLOCO solution is to find a landlord willing to lease a home site, under a long term lease not to exceed 33 years, and live in a tiny home, perhaps?

Stew Jenkins

This article demonstrates the need for the City of San Luis Obispo to add to the City Charter a compensation limit for all department heads and appointed city officers. The City Manager should receive no more than double the median income of residents. The City Police Chief and City Attorney should receive no more than 70% of the compensation paid to the California Attorney General. And no department head should receive any more than 80% of the compensation paid to the City Manager.

Besides the obvious concept that those serving residents of a city should have their pay tied to the actual income of those that they serve, adding such a provision to the City Charter would provide those serving in city staff positions with an appropriate incentive to prioritize job creation, along with industry and commerce to raise the median income of the citizens of San Luis Obispo.


Stew while I’d like to agree with you. But with your logic wouldn’t the city management be motivated to move more “good ones in and bad ones out”? More than what is happening now?

The city should just work to eliminate the poor, why find good paying jobs for them? Problem solved. Ratio’s skewed no more

The real problem. The one that can’t be fixed?

Bay Area population 7.7 million. LA county 10 million. SLO county? 283k.

When people move into your county with pockets full of dough they tend to push up the cost of housing and living.

The affordable funky rentals are no more. They’ve been bulldozed, except for 1 wall, remodeled to the very edge of the property line and moved into by “retirees” of all ages.

The economies to the north and south will always squeeze SLO and limit our ability to manage our way out of this like you advocate.


Stew, agree completely, middle income homeowners and marginal businesses are paying these salaries and benefits. How about a slate of apolitical candidates and new elected public department heads dedicated to dramatically lower salary levels? They would win in a snap.


Just one more reason why you don’t want to live in SLO city. The list continues to grow. It’s a extremely snobby city that caters to the wealthy Progressive/Socialist elitist that is very intolerant to the average citizen. The city is NOT what it claims to be.


you’re a model of toleration? I enjoy EVERY community in this County. They are all wonderful in their own unique way.


I know many, myself included, who avoid downtown SLO now for various reasons, everything from parking to steering clear of students (currently not an issue), the homeless are among them. As time goes by it becomes more and more easy to avoid it than it is to imagine a need to return.


No wonder the SLO city council voted to give themselves raises


Just wait until that all electric policy grabs hold.

Any unit which includes utilities as part of rent will increase significantly.

Sadly, this is the road over regulation and a bloated government will lead you down.

Wake up CA, it’s time to walk away from the red flower power leaders.

Jon Tatro

Come on CCN staff, nowhere do you mention that the reason the numbers are so off is because half the population of SLO are college students who rent homes,apts etc and make very little income while going to school.


Wouldn’t all college towns have the same scenario?

Jon Tatro

Nope, most college towns are much larger in population and have a smaller ratio between college student/ permanent resident ratio. Therefore in SLO the student income level effects that data disproportionately.

Francesca Bolognini

Are you attempting to imply that San Luis Obispo is the only town in the United States with a college? Re-read the first sentence of the article. This statistic suggests a much larger problem.


Who’s going to pay Landlords mortgage payments, insurance & of course PROPERTY TAXES etc?

Speak Truth to Power

Now do you understand why the Feudal Lords want to Limit housing development?

Why would the Ownership Class want to change the playing field by allowing more rental and housing built? As a Feudal Lord that gets Sky High Rents, why would I support local politicians who want to end my racket? As usual folks…Follow the Money. Ask yourself how many in City Government or Planning are renters? Let them eat cake.

Rich in MB

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