New survey finds Central Coast workers worry they may need to move away

Feb 5, 2020

A new survey of Central Coast residents finds many are uncertain about their economic situation, and many of the respondents working in the region say they are worried they may not be able to afford to live here much longer.

The Hourglass Project, the group that commissioned the poll, says labor shortages could further strain the local economy.

The Hourglass Project is a publicly and privately-funded venture working to solve economic challenges on the Central Coast.

Andrew Hackleman is the vice president for strategy with the group.

"It’s unaffordable to live on the Central Coast and wages aren’t keeping up with the increased cost of living in San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County,” Hackleman told KCBX News. “We wanted to do something about that.”

Hourglass commissioned a Sacramento-based research and polling company to survey 540 registered voters aged 18 to 54 in San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County. The findings are summed up in a report titled “Losing Hope, Struggling To Get By, And Likely To Leave: A Portrait of the Central Coast Workforce.”

“It’s not a shock to most that many of our residents and members of our workforce are struggling,” Hackleman said. “But just how severe it is, was quite a surprise to us.”

According to the findings, just one in 529 respondents think housing on the Central Coast is affordable. Over half the respondents felt the standard of living for middle-class workers is getting worse. And one in every two members of the middle class respondents are considering leaving the region, as are more than 60% percent of Latinx respondents and 83% of African Americans.

"A full third of our respondents said they would not be able to cover a $500 emergency visit,” Hackleman said. “They would have to borrow from family members, or [put it on] a credit card.”

One out of every ten workforce families said they worry about food insecurity, and that number rose to one in five when specifically looking at Latinx respondents.

Hackleman says to prevent the area’s workers from leaving, there will need to be increases in affordable housing and jobs with higher wages across the region.

“We have strong industries that we can build upon here,” Hackleman said. “We have institutions like Cal Poly and UCSB. We have assets like Vandenberg Air Force Base, and industries like aerospace, agriculture technology, clean technology. All of these industries have tremendous growth here regionally and at the state and national level, these are high-growth industries with high-wage jobs. We have these jobs here, we just need to foster more growth within them.”

Hackleman said the group is planning to release a report in March titled “Reach 2030,” with suggestions on how to grow industries with well-paying jobs and improve affordability on the Central Coast.