Behind the Story: Rent Prices in SLO Lead to Creative Living Situations

We started by brainstorming topics that affect everyone in SLO, and decided to investigate how the increased student population affects housing availability here. It seemed like a simple enough topic. What we didn’t expect was how many layers we would find in the process of uncovering the problem.

The first hurdle we faced was narrowing the subject to focus on a specific angle, and ended up reworking our story a few times. What came out of this process was a story about unique living situations this problem of expensive rent in SLO has created.

We found students who have either crammed themselves into tiny houses to stay near school or have moved farther away the avoid the sky high prices of rent. In one case, a student was forced to commute two hours to get to class.

“I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else,” Allie Gutwein said. “Are you kidding me? I already work 15 hours a week on top of taking 21 to 22 units. Even with that, I can’t afford it.”

Cal Poly student Allie Gutwein

Click here to view photos of Allie’s unique living situation in the hills east of Cayucos.

Although we were able to find sources who shared their stories, some people were hesitant to tell us anything that might shed a negative light on them. Kassidy Clark, who was in charge of writing the story, found it difficult to get this sensitive information from the student sources.

“I think overall we told the story we wanted to tell. I found it hard to find people of low income, because people are embarrassed talking about it and don’t want people to view them as a low-income student,” Clark said.

Click here to read Kassidy’s story about the housing problem in SLO.

Ethan Roman, who was in charge of video for our project, struggled to get information from non-student sources.

“I found the most difficult part of making my contribution to the project was finding sources that wanted to be quoted on the issue of housing in SLO,” Roman said. “City employees and property developers alike were both hesitant to give up their true opinions in fear of it being used against them in future court cases that will inevitably happen.”

Because it was difficult to gather all the information from our sources, we were limited on visual content and smaller factual details. Julia Glick, who was in charge of the interactive aspects of our project, found herself constricted on what she could include in the final project.

photo courtesy of Julia Glick

“Overall we pulled our project together well, but we quickly realized that the story didn’t allow for as much visual data as we would have liked,” Glick said. “Construction dates were not confirmed and we couldn’t publish any specifics as to when these projects would be completed by. In the end, we did our very best with the visuals we ended up with, and I’m happy with the final product!”

The biggest take away from this project was to choose our topic more carefully next time. We are all happy with the way the first project turned out, but our future topics will definitely be things we are all interested in.

If you are interested in applying for affordable housing, click here.