This article was written by BenitoLink intern Marisa Sachau
It’s been difficult for residents to find renting units within their budget as prices are too high for the level of income in San Benito County, multiple rental management properties told BenitoLink. Beyond rental agencies and websites like Craigslist, people are also using social media platforms like Facebook to seek places to rent or even rooms.
California ranks second highest in the country for how much a person must make in order to afford a two-bedroom rental, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
At $39.01 per hour, California is surpassed only by Hawaii, which is $1.62 per hour more. There, a person would need to earn $40.63 per hour to afford a two-bedroom rental that is on average priced at $2,113. The NLIHC says that ideally, no more than 30% of the income each month should be used on rent.
If it’s any comfort, San Benito County falls dead center when it comes to the cost of rent in the state, according to the NLIHC data. Renters would need to earn an hourly wage of $31.71 to afford a two-bedroom rental that is currently on average priced at $1,649 a month.
According to NLIHC, the annual salary needed to afford this would be $65,960. When comparing this with the rest of the prices in California, it would be considered moderate. But when comparing it with the rest of the country, there are 46 states with cheaper rent than San Benito County.
Rents have remained steady, even decreased over the last several years, according to Fair Market. In 2019 the market reached its peak at $1,750 and it predicts it will again increase in 2023 to $2,155.
BenitoLink met with several individuals who recently sought housing and heard their perspective on an unusually tough local rental market.
Khadijah N., a clinician who declined to provide her full name, was recently able to secure a place for rent in Hollister. She looked at six different places in two different cities, and each rental application cost her between $25 and $50. She looked online for rentals for about one month and was able to get her paperwork processed in less than two weeks.
Khadijah said she was thankful that the rental placement companies allowed potential renters to view a place, but felt some sticker shock.
“I was surprised to see two bedrooms going for $2,300 and $2,400 for a small single-family home,” she said.
She said she believes that high prices come from the amount of people moving here from the Bay Area, which is making it difficult for current residents to find affordable places to rent.
Khadijah recommended looking into rental placement programs or even websites such as Zillow and Trulia, or seeking leads by word-of-mouth.
“I hope that the existing income-based properties look into increasing their guidelines so that more families can move in,” she said. “I also hope that more rentals are built—with the new rate that homes are being built in the area—so that renters have more of an inventory to choose from. Families have to think of more than just rent. They want to grow their savings and that takes affordable childcare too, which is another topic to be addressed!”
Jeff Deacon, a Hollister teacher, also had trouble finding a desirable place within his price range. Last spring, he was told by his landlord that the property was being sold and that he had 60 days to vacate.
Deacon said, “There just wasn’t anything available, and if there was it was $3,000.”
Deacon said he was ideally looking for a one-bedroom or a studio apartment for himself. But he had no luck finding anything. “I could only find two bedrooms and three bedrooms and more.”
The rental prices Deacon saw ranged from $1,700 to $3,500. This was jarring as his previous rent had been $1,000 for 15 years. He acknowledged that he was lucky to be paying that amount for so long, but wanted to find a price that would not stretch his limits.
Deacon was hoping not to be near a busy road, but rather in a quiet neighborhood. He said he reached out to people, asking online, and used any avenue he could think of in hopes of finding a place.
“The place I’m at right now had advertised on Craigslist and they just said open house and it was $2,400,” said Deacon. “I was like ‘alright, I’ll just go see what it’s like.’ It was in a neighborhood that was quiet.”
It’s a brand-new triplex, similar to a townhouse, in a quiet area of southern Hollister. Although it was more than he wanted to spend, he felt this was his best option.
When asked what advice he would give to people looking for a new place to rent, he said,“I think I just got lucky.”
Rory McIlivan, a resident of Hollister and neighbor of Deacon’s, also had to find a place for both him and his wife after being given 60 days’ notice to move.
“We faced the fact that the inventory on the houses—there was not a lot out there,” said McIlivan.
This came as a shock and affected the plan they had in place. Originally, he and his wife were considering buying a home in the Hollister area. The two months’ notice to vacate was not enough time to go through the motions of purchasing a home.
His struggle was similar to Deacon’s. It was a competitive scene. “One I’m remembering is when we went to meet the landlord for his place to rent and he had 30 other applicants,” said McIlivan. “One of the main things we discovered was that we thought it would be easy to jump into one place and it really wasn’t.”
One upgrade McIlvain was looking for was space. The previous cottage they had been renting was about 650 square feet. “We basically were looking for one more bedroom and some storage space,” he said
He remembers feeling sticker shock after seeing the high prices rental homes were going for in Hollister.
“The cheapest place we saw was literally $2,500 to get into a place.”
They decided they were even willing to leave the area, looking in Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and even the Monterey area. “We ended up going outside of Hollister and looking at ads every day on what was available,” said McIlivan. “Hollister was obviously the No. 1 choice because my wife works here.”
He said he noticed that each time they turned in an application for an apartment, their credit score would decrease. McIlivan said that they had applied to four places and afterwards there had been a considerable difference in their credit score.
“Unfortunately, you can’t do one application for everybody,” said McIlivan. “You’re doing one [application] for every home or company that represents those homes. We did three or four, so every time we did that, they pulled our credit.”
This makes it hard to compete with other renters as McIlivan said, as their credit was “dinged.”
When trying to find a place, McIlivan said they put the word on social media and to anyone they knew. They eventually found a rental through someone they knew.
“It’s who you know,” said McIlivan.
McIlivan’s advice for people trying to find a rental is to plan and start looking as soon as possible.
“Be prepared to be turned down,” he said. “Just know that there’s a lot of competition out there. Don’t get stressed out about it. I know it’s a stressful process anyway, but understand there’s going to be potential delays and roadblocks.”
A resource for rental properties in Hollister can be found on the Pivetti Company website. The Coalition of Homeless Services Providers has a housing newsletter of listings of renting units in San Benito and Monterey counties.
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