Tenants challenged by high prices | BenitoLink

Three Hollister residents share their journey to finding rentals within their budget.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Marisa Sachau

It’s hard for the locals to find rental units within their budget because prices are too high for the income level in San Benito County, several rental management properties told BenitoLink. Beyond rental agencies and websites like Craigslist, people are also using social media platforms like Facebook to search for places to rent or even rooms.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), California ranks second in the nation when it comes to how much a person needs to earn to afford a two-bedroom rental.

At $39.01 per hour, California is second only to Hawaii, which costs $1.62 more per hour. There, a person would have to earn $40.63 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental at an average price of $2,113. The NLIHC says that ideally no more than 30% of monthly income should be used for rent.

If it’s any comfort to you, San Benito County falls in the middle when it comes to the cost of rent in the state, according to NLIHC data. Renters would need to earn an hourly wage of $31.71 to afford a two-bedroom rental that currently costs an average of $1,649 per month.

According to NLIHC, the annual salary needed to pay for this would be $65,960. Comparing this with the rest of the prices in California, this would be considered moderate. But comparing it with the rest of the country, there are 46 states with cheaper rent than San Benito County.

Rents have remained stable or even decreased in recent years, according to Fair Market. In 2019, the market peaked at $1,750 and he expects it to rise again in 2023 to $2,155.

BenitoLink caught up with several people who have recently been looking for accommodation and heard their views on an unusually tough local rental market.

Khadija’s Journey

Khadijah N., a clinician who declined to give her full name, was recently able to secure rental accommodation in Hollister. She visited six different locations in two different cities, and each rental request cost her between $25 and $50. She searched for rentals online for about a month and was able to have her paperwork processed in less than two weeks.

Khadijah said she was grateful that rental investment companies made it possible for potential tenants to see a home, but felt sticker shock.

“I was surprised to see two bedrooms go for $2,300 and $2,400 for a tiny single family home,” she said.

She said she believes the high prices stem from the number of people moving here from the Bay Area, which makes it difficult for current residents to find affordable housing to rent.

Khadijah recommended researching rental placement programs or even websites such as Zillow and Trulia, or researching leads by word of mouth.

“I hope existing income-based properties consider increasing their guidelines so more families can move in,” she said. “I also hope that more rental units will be built – with the new rate at which homes are being built in the area – so that tenants have more choices to choose from. Families need to think about more than just rent. They want to grow their savings and that also requires affordable childcare, which is another topic to discuss!”

Jeff Deacon

Jeff Deacon, a Hollister teacher, also struggled to find a desirable place in its price range. Last spring, his landlord told him the property was up for sale and he had 60 days to vacate.

Deacon said, “There was just nothing available, and if there was, it was $3,000.”

Deacon said he was ideally looking for a one-bedroom apartment or a studio for himself. But he had no luck finding anything. “I could only find two bedrooms and three bedrooms and more.”

Rental prices Deacon saw ranged from $1,700 to $3,500. This was shocking because 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 wouldn’t push his limits.

Deacon was hoping not to be near a busy road, but rather in a quiet neighborhood. He said he contacted people, asked online and used any avenue he could think of in hopes of finding a place.

“The place I’m at right now was advertised on Craigslist and they just said open house and it was $2,400,” Deacon said. “I was like ‘Okay, I’m just going to go see what it looks like.’ It was in a quiet area.”

This is a brand new triplex, similar to a townhouse, in a quiet neighborhood in South Hollister. Even though it was more than he wanted to spend, he thought it was his best option.

When asked what advice he would give to people looking for a new place to rent, he replied: “I think I just got lucky.”

Rory McIlivan

Hollister resident and Deacon neighbor Rory McIlivan also had to find a place for himself and his wife after being given 60 days notice to move.

“We were faced with the fact that the inventory of homes — there wasn’t a lot,” McIlivan said.

It came as a shock and affected the plan they had in place. Originally, he and his wife were considering buying a house in the Hollister area. The two months notice of departure was not enough to go through the stages of buying a house.

His fight was similar to Deacon’s. It was a competitive scene. “One that I remember was when we went to meet the landlord for his place to rent and he had 30 other applicants,” McIlivan said. “One of the main things we discovered was that we thought it would be easy to jump in the same spot and it really wasn’t.”

One upgrade McIlvain was looking for was space. The previous cabin they had rented was about 650 square feet. “We were basically looking for one more bedroom and storage space,” he said.

He remembers being shocked after seeing the high rental home prices in Hollister.

“The cheapest place we’ve seen was literally $2,500 to get into a place.”

They decided they were even ready to leave the area, looking to Gilroy, Morgan Hill and even the Monterey area. “We ended up getting out of Hollister and watching ads every day about what was available,” McIlivan said. “Hollister was obviously the No. 1 choice because my wife works here.”

He said he noticed that each time they applied for an apartment, their credit score went down. McIlivan said they applied to four places and then there was a huge difference in their credit scores.

“Unfortunately, you can’t make one app for everyone,” McIlivan said. “You make one [application] for each household or business that represents those households. We did three or four of them, so every time we did that, they took our credit.

This makes it difficult to compete with other tenants, as McIlivan put it, because their credit has been “eroded”.

While trying to find a location, McIlivan said they put the word out on social media and to everyone they knew. They ended up finding a rental through someone they knew.

“It’s who you know,” McIlivan said.

McIlivan’s advice to people trying to find a rental is to plan ahead and start looking as soon as possible.

“Be prepared to be denied,” he said. “Just know there’s a lot of competition out there. Don’t stress about it. I know it’s a stressful process anyway, but I understand there will be delays and potential roadblocks.

A resource for rental properties in Hollister can be found on the Pivetti company website. The Coalition of Homeless Service Providers publishes a housing newsletter with listings of rental units in San Benito and Monterey counties.

The BenitoLink Internship Program is a paid skills development program that prepares local youth for a professional career. This program is supported by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation AT&T Golf Tour, United Way, Taylor Farms and the Emma Bowen Foundation.

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