Population: 66,573
Households: 26,161
Employed Residents: 33,036
Housing Units: 28,050

Source: ACS 2019 5 year estimates

Jobs: 97,579
Employed Residents per Household: 1.24
Jobs per Employed Resident: 3.00
Jobs-Housing Balance Ratio: 3.54
Source: ACS 2017 5 year estimates

Low-Wage Jobs-Housing Fit Ratio: 6.66
Source: 2015 LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics

For more information about the jobs/housing calculations visit our jobs and housing page.

2019 Homeless Count: 313 persons, including 299 unsheltered and 14 sheltered (+13% from 2017)
Source: 2019 Homeless Point In Time Count

Average Monthly Rent: $2,913
Rent Change Year over Year: -13%
Source: Rent Cafe, April 2021

Palo Alto’s 2020 Affordable Housing Inventory
Extremely Low-IncomeVery Low-IncomeLow-IncomeModerate IncomeTotal UnitsAffordable % of Total Housing Stock
1461,0296148432,6329.0%

SOURCE: Units reported in the Housing Element Annual Performance Report that received building permits in 2019 were added to the unit counts in the previously reported 2018 Base Year table.  This methodology necessarily means that any ELI units, if any, are included in the VLI category since that is how HCD has required production data to be reported.  The RHNA data on new units relies on self-reporting by jurisdiction and can include units for which building permits were issued that never got built.  The percentage of the total housing stock in the community is based the California Department of Finance’s Table E-5.

See more information on our affordable housing assets page.

2014-2022 Regional Housing Needs Allocation 

Every eight years, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process is used to assign each city and county in California their “fair share” of new housing units to build. These units of housing are intended to accommodate existing need and projected growth in the region. The RHNA process is critical because it requires all cities and counties to plan for the housing needs of their residents, regardless of income, in an effort to plan for future growth and ease the Bay Area’s acute housing crisis. 

Many cities and counties regularly fall short of their RHNA targets, as the Bay Area’s housing crisis continues to grow. Each spring, jurisdictions are required to provide an Annual Progress Report to show how effective their efforts have been in achieving housing development targets by income level. The table below shows Palo Alto’s progress.

Palo Alto’s 2015-2022 RHNA Permit Progress as of 12/2020
Affordability LevelRHNA TargetPermits IssuedProgress to Target
Very Low Income69110115%
Low Income4326014%
Moderate Income2784215%
Above Moderate Income58754192%
Total198874437%

Permitting progress as of December 2020. Source: HCD 2020 Housing Element Annual Progress Report Permit Summary.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

All California cities and counties are mandated to permit ADUs and JADUs according to state law. The Legislature further updated ADU and JADU law effective January 1, 2021 to clarify and improve various provisions in order to promote the development of ADUs and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs). These include allowing ADUs and JADUs to be built concurrently with a single-family dwelling, opening areas where ADUs can be created to include all zoning districts that allow single-family and multifamily uses, modifying fees from utilities such as special districts and water corporations, limited exemptions or reductions in impact fees, and reduced parking requirements. Please see the Accessory Dwelling Unit Handbook (PDF) for more information for local government bodies and homeowners interested in adding an ADU or JADU to their property. Our partner, the Housing Trust of Silicon Valley has kicked-off a major initiative, Small Homes, Big Impact to support ADU development throughout Santa Clara County, including outreach and education, and potential new financing mechanisms.

Palo Alto ADUs Permitted: 2017 – 2020
2017201820192020Total% of Countywide Total
123662431536.8%

Affordable Housing Policies

Housing Element Policies

The Housing Element of Palo Alto’s Comprehensive Plan has several policies encouraging affordable housing, including:

  • An active Below Market Rate (BMR) (inclusionary) program for for-sale housing that provides affordable units (or payment of an in-lieu fee, as an alternative).
  • Extremely low-income (ELI) units are given a strong preference in the expenditure of City funds.
  • Zoning Code amendments to provide additional incentives to developers to include ELI units in their project, including reduced fees and landscaping requirements, and reduced parking requirements for smaller units.
  • For proposed affordable housing developments, City departments are required to expedite processing times and waive or reduce development fees.
  • Permanently affordable units are exempt from infrastructure impact fees.
  • A density bonus program to allow affordable housing developments to exceed standard limits.
  • A commercial impact (linkage) fee to generate funding for affordable housing finance.
Inclusionary Housing

The City of Palo Alto has an inclusionary housing policy that requires for-sale residential developments with three or more units to designate a percentage of total units for very low, low and moderate income households.  The percentage requirement differs based on the acreage of a project’s site:

  • Less than 5 acres: 15% percent of total units (with two-thirds of the affordable units set aside for households earning 80-100% AMI, and one-third for households earning 100-120% AMI)
  • 5 or more acres: 20% of total units (with four-fifths of the affordable units set aside for households earning 80-100% AMI, and one-fifth for households earning 100-120% AMI)
Affordable Housing Impact Fees

In April 2017, the City of Palo Alto adopted a new affordable housing impact fee policy that requires new rental housing developments to pay a $20 per square foot impact fee, which is used to fund the creation of affordable housing.

As part of the April 2017 update, the City also set the following fee levels for non-residential development:

  • Office/R&D/Medical: $35.00
  • Hotel: $20.37
  • Retail: $20.37

Additional Resources

 Photo: 801 Alma Family Apartments, Eden Housing

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