Los Altos’ Demographics

Population: 31,021
Households: 10,887
Housing Units: 11,871
Source: California Department of Finance, 2023 Table E-5

Employed Residents: 14,342
Source: ACS 2022 5 year estimates

In 2022, 54.54% of Los Altos’ population was White while 0.68% was African American, 36.75% was Asian, and 4.54% was Latinx. People of color in Los Altos comprise a proportion below the overall proportion in the Bay Area as a whole.
Source: ACS 2022 5 year estimates

Rate of population growth, 2010 to 2020: 6.1%
Rate of housing unit addition, 2010 to 2020: 4.2%
Source: California Department of Finance, Table E-5

Over the same period, Los Altos grew more slowly than Santa Clara County, which had a 9.2% population increase, or the nine-county Bay Area region, which had a 8.6% population increase.

The number of new homes built in Los Altos and Santa Clara County has not kept pace with demand, resulting in longer commutes, increasing prices, and exacerbating issues of displacement and homelessness.


Housing Types in Los Altos

It is important to have a variety of housing types to meet the needs of a community today and in the future. In 2022, 80.6% of homes in Los Altos were single family detached (generally the most expensive type of home), 4.8% were single family attached, 2.2% were small multifamily (2-4 units), and 12.1% were medium or large multifamily (5+ units). Between 2010 and 2020, the number of multi-family units increased more than single-family units. In Los Altos, the share of the housing stock that is detached single family homes is higher than the average of other jurisdictions in the region.
Source: California Department of Finance, 2023 Table E-5

Jobs & Housing in Los Altos

Jobs: 10,842
Employed Residents per Household:  1.32
Jobs per Employed Resident: 0.76
Jobs-Housing Balance Ratio: 0.91
Source: ACS 2022 5 year estimates

Note: Jobs-Housing Balance is a measurement used by planners that assumes that a balanced community is one where people can both live and work. This ratio compares the number of jobs in a community to the number of housing units.

Jobs-Housing Fit: 39.62 low wage jobs per low-cost rental unit
Source: Jobs from LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics 2021; households from U.S. Census, American Community Survey B25056, B25061

Note: Jobs-Housing Fit measures the mismatch between wages and housing affordability as the ratio of low-wage jobs (less than $3,333/month) to the number of low-cost rental units (less than $1,500/month). In Los Altos, there are more than 14 low-wage workers competing for each affordable home.


Renting in Los Altos

Percent of population that rents: 17%
Source: ACS 2022 5 year estimates

Average Monthly Rent (1 bedroom apartment): $2,699
Rent Change Year over Year: +9%
Source: Zumper, December 2023

Cost Burden in Los Altos

Cost-Burdened (30% – 50% income spent on housing)
Renter Households: 28% of renter households (563)
Homeowner Households: 26% of homeowner households (2,313)

Severely Cost-Burdened (more than 50% of income spent on housing)
Renter Households: 15% of renter households (310)
Homeowner Households: 12% of homeowner households (1,033)
Source: ACS 2022 5 year estimates

Note: Current standards measure housing cost in relation to gross household income: households spending more than 30 percent of their income, including utilities, are generally considered to be overpaying or “cost burdened.” Severe cost burden occurs when households pay 50 percent or more of their gross income for housing. The impact of high housing costs falls disproportionately on extremely low-, very low-, and low-income households, especially renters. While some higher-income households may choose to spend greater portions of their income for housing, the cost burden for lower-income households reflects choices limited by a lack of a sufficient supply of housing affordable to these households.

Homelessness in Los Altos

2022 Unhoused people: 65 people, all unsheltered (-14% from 2019)

2019 Unhoused people: 76 people, all unsheltered (+1,166% from 2017)
Source: 2019 and 2022 Homeless Point In Time Count

Overcrowding in Los Altos

Total Rental Homes: 2,010
Overcrowded Rental Homes: 47
Severely Overcrowded Rental Homes: 44
Percent of Rental Homes, Overcrowded: 4.52%
Source: ACS 2022 5 year estimates

  • The U.S. Census defines an overcrowded unit as one occupied by 1.01 persons or more per room (excluding bathrooms and kitchens). Units with more than 1.5 persons per room are considered severely overcrowded.

Note: Overcrowding increases health and safety concerns and stresses the condition of the housing stock and infrastructure. Overcrowding is strongly related to household size (particularly for large and very-large households) and the availability of suitably sized housing. Overcrowding impacts both owners and renters; however, renters are generally more significantly impacted. 

2023-2031 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) 

Every eight years, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process is used to assign each city and county in California their “fair share” of the region’s housing need, by income level. These homes are intended to address the housing shortage, meeting the needs of existing residents and accommodating projected growth in the region. 

The RHNA process is critical because state law requires each city and county to make a specific, actionable, and measurable plan, called a Housing Element, that complies with state law and addresses housing needs. It must identify enough sites to hold the RHNA, by income level, and create programs that remove barriers to housing production and protect residents vulnerable to displacement. Local jurisdictions must also take significant steps to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH), addressing racial and economic segregation and disparities in access to resources, and meeting the unique housing needs of residents in protected groups. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is responsible for certifying Housing Element compliance with state law.

In the past, many cities and counties have fallen far short of their RHNA targets, as the Bay Area’s housing crisis continues to grow. In this planning cycle, new laws give HCD additional tools to provide technical assistance and hold jurisdictions accountable to their plans. Each spring, jurisdictions are required to complete an Annual Progress Report on the Housing Element, including the number of homes permitted by income level, program actions taken, and outcomes achieved. The table below shows Los Altos’ target in the sixth cycle and progress to date in permitting new homes.

Affordability LevelRHNA TargetPermits IssuedProgress to Target
Very Low Income50100%
Low Income28810.3%
Moderate Income32600%
Above Moderate Income8431180.1%

Permitting progress as of December 2023. Source: HCD 2023 Housing Element Implementation and APR Data Dashboard.

2014-2022 Regional Housing Needs Allocation

The table below shows Los Altos’ final progress toward meeting the 2014-2022 RHNA.

Affordability LevelRHNA GoalPermits IssuedProgress to Goal
Very Low Income16974.1%
Low Income997878.8%
Moderate Income1126356.3%
Above Moderate Income97654674.2%

Permitting progress as of December 2022. Source: HCD 5th Cycle Housing Element Implementation and APR Data Dashboard.

Current Affordable Housing Stock

Los Altos’ 2023 Affordable Housing Inventory
Extremely Low-IncomeVery Low-IncomeLow-IncomeModerate IncomeTotal UnitsAffordable % of Total Housing Stock

SOURCE: Units reported in the Housing Element Annual Performance Report that received building permits through 2023 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.

Jobs & Housing Development Pipeline

As of January 2022, Los Altos has 0.37 jobs in the development pipeline for every 1 housing unit in the development pipeline.

Los Altos Development Pipeline as of January 2022
Applications SubmittedApproved ProjectsUnder ConstructionTotal
Anticipated New Jobs18663194
New Housing Units21229517524

Pipeline as of January 2022. Information reported from City of Los Altos.  The employment projections are derived by applying square-footage-per-employee factors to building floor areas by four building types: 250 square feet for office/R&D; 1,500 feet for hotels; 550 feet for retail/restaurant; and 2,500 feet for manufacturing/warehouse. All are figures applied to a building’s gross square footage.

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.

Los Altos ADUs Permitted: 2017 – 2023

HCD 2023 Housing Element Implementation and APR Data Dashboard.

Affordable Housing Policies

Housing Element Policies

The Housing Element of Los Altos’ General Plan includes a number of policies in furtherance of its affordable housing objectives:

  • Encouraging affordable housing in mixed-use developments along El Camino Real and in other commercial zoning districts.
  • Providing development incentives for affordable housing development in those areas, including reduced parking requirements, adjustment of setback and building height regulations, and deferment of fees.
  • Allowing transitional and supportive housing in all residential zoning districts.
  • Allowing multifamily densities up to 38 units per acre.
  • Requiring that residential development in commercial and mixed-use zoning districts be built at maximum densities.
  • Providing a density bonus to encourage higher density development.
  • Continuing to participate in regional efforts to end homelessness.
Inclusionary Housing

On September 11th, 2018 Los Altos increased their inclusionary housing policy percentage up from 10 to 15 percent for rental and for sale projects of 5 units or more.

For projects with ten (10) or more units, affordable housing units shall be provided as follows

  • Rental units: Twenty (20) percent designated as affordable at the low income level or fifteen (15) percent designated as affordable at the very-low income level.
  • Ownership units: Fifteen (15) percent total, with a majority of the units designated as affordable at the moderate income level and the remaining units designated as affordable at the low or very-low income level.
Affordable Housing Impact Fees

The City of Los Altos is one of six Santa Clara County jurisdictions that participated in the 2015 countywide nexus study that was commissioned by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. While the City does not currently charge impact fees for affordable housing, the nexus study serves as a basis for the City to explore the possibility of adopting impact fees on residential and/or non-residential development that would be used to fund affordable housing.

Visit the following links to view the City of Los Altos’ nexus studies:

Additional Resources

Photo: Sanfranman59 via Wikimedia Commons