SLO County second least affordable small metro in America

San Luis Obispo may have once earned the title of Happiest City in America, but the region itself has also earned a long-standing reputation for unaffordability.

According to a recent data analysis by Porch, an online home improvement and home-buying advice website, the San Luis Obispo area is the now second least affordable small metro area in the entire United States.

The company determined the overall cost of living in San Luis Obispo County was 9.5% higher than the national average, placing it just below Napa, where the overall cost of living was estimated at 11.4% above the average.

(The most affordable small metro, by the way, was Florence and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the cost of living is roughly 17.6% lower than the national average, according to Porch.)

How SLO County ranked on affordability metrics

As part of its analysis, Porch looked at the Consumer Price Index to determine which areas throughout the country were the most and least affordable for residents. The Consumer Price Index measures prices for typical consumer expenses like food, energy, transportation, clothing and housing.

According to Porch, the national CPI has increased at least 5% or more every month since June 2021, reaching a 7.5% increase year-over-year in January.

One of the biggest impacts to affordability is home prices, according to Porch; many of the most affordable locations on the list are those with lower housing costs.

According to Porch, San Luis Obispo County’s cost of housing was roughly 51.7% higher than the national average (ranking it as the small metro with the fourth highest housing costs).

The median home price in San Luis Obispo County was $829,000 in February, according to Realtor.com, which was up about 11.1% year-over-year.

Meanwhile, the cost of goods was roughly 3.6% above the national average, according to the Porch data.

There was some good news: San Luis Obispo County residents on average were paying about 2.6% less in utilities than in other metro areas, according to the study — though that conflicts with another study released by Doxo in late 2021 that claimed the region experiences significantly higher utility bills than the US average.

SLO County also had one of the higher per capita personal income averages at $62,342, of the 205 small metros studied.

The national average personal income per capita is $59,510, according to Porch.

Overall, the San Luis Obispo County area ranked as the 16th least affordable United States metro when including mid-size and large metros in the list as well.

Notably, Santa Barbara County, which was classified as a mid-size metro, had an estimated cost of living that was 10% higher than the national average, according to Porch — making it just slightly more unaffordable than San Luis Obispo County.

This story was originally published March 21, 2022 1:00 PM.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.

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