By Macie Wilson
With rents uncontrollably escalating and vacancies drastically plummeting, San Luis Obispo has finally reached “a state of crisis” — severely affecting students who are in need of a place to live.
If you are not working 40 hours a week and making more than $12 an hour, you are struggling to survive in San Luis Obispo, according to Action for Healthy Communities.
With rental vacancy being at an all-time low of 1.7 percent, looking for a place to call home has become an exhausting and, sometimes, futile endeavor.
“It was extremely stressful not knowing when or where I would be living,” said Skye Penny, a current student at Cuesta college. When Skye moved to the central coast in 2015, the lack of affordable housing led her to live out of her car and stay with random people for upwards of two months. “It got to a point where I felt like I was on Craigslist every five minutes. I didn’t care where it was, I would take anything.”
With the approval of a new housing project set to build 370 homes in the Righetti Ranch area, San Luis can look forward to at least a slight alleviation of the current pressure of finding affordable housing.
This comes at a time when Cal Poly has come under great pressure from angry residents regarding the ever increasing number of university admissions and the stagnant number of housing options for students. In response, Cal Poly administrators approved a plan that calls for
a $1 billion expansion over the next 20 years that hopes to provide housing for 65 percent of its student body. Construction on new dorms began in 2015 and is on track to be completed by summer 2018.
“Over the past few years, rent has completely skyrocketed,” stated Lindsay Beisheim, a senior at Cal Poly. “Last year, my roommates and I were thrilled to find out that we were selected out of more than 15 applicant groups to rent our home, only to find out the landlord decided to raise the rent by $800.”
Currently in San Luis Obispo County, 44.2 percent of residential households are experiencing a “high housing cost burden” meaning that more than half of their income every month is being spent on basic living costs, according to county officials — who now say they recognize the situation as “a crisis.”
The average rent for a single individual in 2014 was $1,253, a 1.58 percent increase from 2013. The average rent for the 2015 year will not be available until late 2016.
In order to afford the current cost of living for a two-bedroom apartment, the household needs to have a minimum income of at least $52,360, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
So what options do Cuesta students have? Places like Mustang Village, Stenner Glen, and Valencia Apartments are regarded as affordable housing options for first and second year students, but students have seen a continual increase in rent even at these places.rents have even increased even these staples of college living have seen an increase in price.
With plans not set to be finished for another 20 years, current students of both Cuesta and Cal Poly face the difficult task of finding affordable housing in an extremely competitive market.
“It would have been impossible for me to find the living I did if it weren’t for people letting me crash on their couches for extended periods of time,” Penny stated. “Just completely impossible.
Some tips to put you ahead of the pack when it comes to finding the perfect place for you.
- Put the word out early
Do you know people who plan on moving out? Contact their landlord or property manager well in advance to express interest in taking over their lease. Jumping on housing early can save you a lot of stress when it actually comes time to pack up and move out.
- Write a cover letter
It may sound pretty basic, but according to Jessica Carrillo, property manager and real estate owner, it could be just what you need to push you ahead of the pack. A simple cover letter describing things about you, like the reason for moving and your financial status, helps put a face to your application and is a sure way to be considered.
- Build good credit, or know someone who already has it
With the housing market in San Luis Obispo continuing the way it has been, it is important for landlords and property management companies to feel secure in who they are renting to. Having a cosigner with good credit, whether it be a relative or just a good friend, is something you may want to have locked down before you start your house hunt. Be prepared though: with the market being as cutthroat as it is, a lot of rentals do not accept cosigners and expect you to have good credit on your own.
- As much as it hurts, offering a little more for rent can help
As expensive as it is to find housing in the area, offering rent over the current asking price not only helps you stand out, it shows that you have your finances in order. If you and 3 other friends want to rent a house, offering as little as $100 more a month for the property ($25 more per person) is a great way to get your foot in the door and to be thoroughly considered.
- Fill out your application completely.
“You may not know your previous landlord’s phone number from two years ago, but LOOK IT UP,” Jessica Hickok stated, property manager and landlord with Dizmang Properties. If your landlord has to do research just to find out the information that they asked you to state on your application in the first place, your application will most likely be tossed to the side. So take your time and gather all of that information before you start your application process.