Santa Barbara’s Recovery Blues

Residents Still Forced into ‘Extreme Competition’ for Rental Housing

Thursday, July 3, 2014
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Low-income workers throughout the South Coast will get a boost this week as the state’s new minimum-wage law goes into effect this Tuesday, raising the minimum amount from $8 an hour to $9 an hour. Given the “extreme competition” for rental housing throughout the South Coast, where vacancy levels have dropped below one percent ​— ​so described by the UCSB Economic Forecast Project ​— ​it remains to be seen how much actual relief that will provide.

Since the recovery, report author Dawn Dyer stated, rents have hit “record high levels.” According to Dyer, the “average” two-bedroom apartment now costs $1,922 a month. Assuming renters spend no more than one-third of their income on housing ​— ​the most they should, economists contend ​— ​Dyer calculated tenants of such a unit would need to earn $66,000 a year to qualify. Rents, she noted, remained flat during much of the recession, but have been making up for lost time since late 2012. During the recession, she added, median family income throughout the South Coast fell by 8.5 percent, and even with the recovery, still remains 2.5-3.5 percent below pre-recession levels of 2006.

While unemployment in Santa Barbara County is among the lowest in the state ​— ​and even lower throughout the South Coast ​— ​the majority of new jobs created since the recession have been heavily weighted in favor of service-industry positions, which tend to pay close to minimum wage levels. Efforts at the state level to increase wages even further ​— ​up to $13 an hour by 2017 ​— ​were voted down in committee last week. With that bill defeated, the next increase in the minimum wage ​— ​to $10 an hour ​— ​is slated for 2016.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This may come as total shocker to Mr. Welsh and most Indy readers but rents are high *because people are willing to pay* those prices.

and, wait for it... here it comes...

When people are not willing to pay those rents, they will drop.
I know, mind-blowing isn't it?

Raising the minimum wage raises all peoples wages, not just minimum wage earners (think about it), putting more money in peoples' pockets which will make them more able to pay higher rents!

So what is the solution?

More *supply* of rentals. But Mr. Welsh predictably chooses not to write about this solution because... well I don't know. He's certainly smart enough to know that raising the minimum wage doesn't help at all.

Maybe it's because it's impossible to build more rental units in SB due to the slow-no growth crowd and state laws that do not encourage builders to construct apartment buildings.

Until then the committed left in SB City will continue to harm the working poor by limiting the supply of new rental units while screaming that Republicans are blocking faster increases in minimum wages, which slow down employment growth and which do nothing to solve this problem.

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 9:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

An increase in the minimum wage is definitely a mixed bag. Some people will get raises while some will get pink slips. There will be more money in some people's pockets and less in others. This is according to the CBO.

I disagree with RealityCheck in that the issue is not the "slow growth" crowd, but the fact that developers don't want to build low income apartments unless the parking requirements are waived. There's much more money in building luxury condos than cheap apartments. Unless SB wants to start allowing high-rise development, utilizing valuable land to build low income apartments with appropriate parking is just not economically viable.

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 9:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Time to cater the high-end market instead of these past decades catering only to the low-end market. The accumulated bills run up handing out subsidized windfalls to those who cannot afford to live here need to be paid.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 9:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The City has changed the rules with the recent General Plan Update. Now property owners may get extra units as well as reduced parking requirements if they build smaller rentals versus larger condos. So the incentives are in place; let's see if it helps.

art (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 10:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Waiving the parking requirements might get the smaller units built, but it will decrease the quality of life for everyone in the city with more traffic and less parking. That's just common sense to keep those requirements, not "slow growth".

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 11:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If the city really cared about affordable housing, it wouldn't make it nearly impossible for developers to build apartments. The time line drags on so long from the moment land is purchased until permits are pulled, with so many delayed hearings and expensive nutty requirements that it only makes sense to build speculative highend condos.

I'd love to build a twenty unit middle income oriented rental apartment complex in SB, but the nearly endless city approval process is a game only the incredibly well heeled can afford to play. Try it once, and you'll never try again!

Lars (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 1:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

City of Santa Barbara cared so much about affordable housing it has now devoted 20% of its total housing units to this cause. The fact the city committed economic suicide in the process should be cause for concern. The city cannot afford any more affordable housing.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 3:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There will ALWAYS be more people that want to live in Santa Barbara than there is available housing for them. I have lived here for 40 years and have had to listen to the same tired theory that, if we build more housing it will then be "affordable" (whatever that means). All the additional housing does, is lowers the quality of life for everyone here, lets a few more people who think they can afford it to live here and puts additional strains on the limited natural resources (take a drive by of Lake Cachuma) needed to support the additional population.

oaintw (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2014 at 5:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Who imagines they have a perfect right to live in Santa (Boardwalk) Barbara? Whats wrong with some these people?

nuffalready (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 11:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

People born and raised here I'd say have a bit more entitlement to live here. Reactionaries can whine and complain about lower income housing but the real drain on our resources , water, air etc or the many thousands of tourists every weekend and most of the money they spend here doesn't stay here.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 11:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Tourists and the 50,000 out of town students who live here...

oaintw (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 2:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The students are a vital part of the community.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 2:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So students are a vital part of the community but tourists aren't. Interesting...

oaintw (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 3:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hmm...why do the people born here have more of a right to live here? Does anyone have a right to live anywhere?

Santa Barbara is a tough place. It's beautiful. It's expensive. I'd like to see people who work here be able to afford to live here. You know, the people who work at our restaurants, our police, our firemen. How do you make that happen?

Large low-income housing creates more traffic and a reduction in quality of life. Allowing builders to fudge on the parking rules make parking too hard to come by. You can say that people should walk/ bike/ bus and only own one car until you are blue in the face - but that's not reality. Let's live in reality. (My neighbor is a single guy with one car, two SUVs, and a motorcycle.)

mm1970 (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 3:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Tourists are totally vital. They spend their money at our restaurants and hotels (which employ many many locals).

mm1970 (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 3:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If the tourists spend their money at locally owned hotels, restaurants, shops etc then yes that ames them vital. But how many of these big hotels etc are locally owned? How many of those employed at these establishments can afford to live here? So the money goes out of the community just as fast as it come sin. The fact these people spend isn't the issue, it's where the money is going and often times it's going outside SB county!
That's my point. The imbalance.
We've put all our eggs in one basket and strangled other nontourist based industries. How many locally owned businesses do you find on State St. for example as compared to even just five years ago.
I'm not antitourist or tourism industry, I'm for balance and keeping money in our community, not shipping it off to some mega-corporation.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 3:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

But 50,000 out of town students who are draining the pockets of local taxpayers are a vital part of our community.

oaintw (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 3:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How are the students draining our pockets? The bulk of them attend UCSB and pay all kinds of taxes. They also spend money here, much more than the average tourist. In addition they help keep the cultural and intellectual scene fresh. SB would be a far less attractive place without the influence and economic input of UCSB. Did you know UCSB is mandated to give priority to local businesses in accepting bids?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 3:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Illegal immigrant workers largely send their paychecks back to their home countries. Boycotting the use of illegal workers who practice this keeps money circulating within the community.

Pay legal workers after proper tax deductions and not under the table, paying only fairly bargained-for wages for the goods and services one wishes to exchange.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 4:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess I was referring more to SBCC, which gets much of it's budget from local property taxes and bond measures (asking for another quarter of a billion in November) and whose 25,000 students are overwhelmingly from outside the SBCC district.

oaintw (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 4:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Tourism is an Agenda 21 - approved industry. The plan is to destroy technology, vacate 50% of the area of the US and Canada and designate this
land a biodiversity preserve, and limit manufacturing to small, essentially sweatshop industries, but the fascist psychopaths need recreation, so tourist-related industries are essential.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 4:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

14, you forgot about the gypsies from outer space.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 4:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It would help if the city made it easier for people to create & rent out "mother-in-law" apartments on their property . Instead, people rent sub-standard facilities. Have you seen some of the "studio" spaces for which people want $!,200 to $1,800 a month?! Microwave on a table and wash your dishes in a tiny bathroom sink. No heat. etc etc. It's disgraceful.

mindful (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It is disgraceful owners violate clear zoning ordinances. The city need better enforcement of existing ordinances, or change them through a public process, not benign neglect. Making it easier to degrade zoning restrictions is not an answer. Go someplace else if you want legal housing.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 9:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The city is already very strict. They have mandatory zoning inspections upon sale and many homeowners get collared into paying thousands to fix violations, often ones that they had no part in creating.

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 9:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You hate government, Jarvis, yet "The city need better enforcement of existing ordinances," which would take more inspectors and cost more. Illogical.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2014 at 9:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The city is very strict AND ad hoc in how they handle their inspections.
Jarvis is correct in that if our government would enforce what we already have on the books we would be better off. That is by no means antithetical to those of us who dislike big government.

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 8:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Swift and sure enforcement in the present is preventive, thereby reducing the need for future enforcement. Expensive and messy is random and capricious enforcement. The current enforcement process needs a complete overhaul to ensure greater efficiencies, less cost and surer deterrence.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 9:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Check out "accessory structures" permitted in Portland:

here's the zoning ordinance:

valleyfarmer (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 1:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I dodn't see any unbiased answers to 'How many people can fit into Santa Barbara?' Rather than talking about WHO can live here why not discuss Santa Barbara's future (would that be the general plan in which we have so little say)? Do we want to be Santa Barbara or to be the Los Angeles of the North? Do we want an agricultural presence or just a high cost of living reputation? Do we want to retain ANY of what is still here or do a complete about-face? The so-called compromises are killing us.

It seems to me that the only things the government - city, county, state, fed - wants is more money & more money & more money. Most corporations advocate "employee satisfaction" among other things. Maybe the government should consider this topic but I certainly think that they will not.

summer (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 6:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

'How many people can fit into Santa Barbara?'"

As many as the powers-that-be want to cram in there.

Now that the polar shift has occurred from slow-grow to high-density planning, any possibility of quality of life has gone out the window.

Angry, overcrowded, and overpriced describe "The 805", but at least it's "paradise".

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2014 at 7:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Really Mr. Welsh? Seriously reality check. I make minimum wage and I live in a van down by the dried up river! I can't afford rent or the gas to live somewhere else!
So thank you both for reminding me that most residents here are living in a low density, government regulated pipe dream!

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 1:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

MOUTHPIECE FOR THE HYPER-WEALTHY JarvisJarvis writes "Time to cater [to] the high-end market" renters... You are insensitive and cruel-hearted, Foo. I'd love for you to say this face-to-face with touristunfriendly.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 1:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Name the gated community....

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 1:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

DrDan, Foo is spawning into different incarnations. The collective power of Foo and Loonpt will divide, and conquer. I am but just one spawn of this cyber merger.

We will conquer you with love, because love conquers hate. So we leave you, with a kiss on the cheek, wishing the wind at your back, and your troubles to be few.

FoolPt (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 4:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Biology 101, its called "Carrying Capacity".

What is the carrying capacity of Santa Barbara, you have to look at available water, water stolen from the Santa Ynez Valley, water and sewer treatment capacity, etc etc.

It is not a social issue, it is basic Biology, after the carrying capacity is known, then you create your City around those limitations.

Violate the Laws of Nature and at some point you pay the price, another year of drought will make it crystal clear.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 11:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@HGWMV: What you are presenting is logic, and there is little room for logic in the world of local politics.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2014 at 6:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)


I think the carrying capacity for Santa Barbara was exceeded awhile ago, probably goes for the entire State of California.

All the new hotels in town should not have been built, we did not have the water or the housing for all the workers that are needed to man them. UCSB and SBCC are both over their carrying capacity limits.

The idea that you can just keep building and expanding without looking at the carrying capacity issue really points to the stupidity of those elected or desirous of being in charge.

We study the Anasazi but are unable to connect the dots to ourselves.

Catalina Island, Avalon, has 2,200 rate payers with severe DROUGHT and rationing but over 800,000 yearly tourists that come and go and don't care how much water they use. California towns like Santa Barbara that based their economics on tourism are going to be in for a hard ride as the drought continues.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 8:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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