The Challenge of Renting in Santa Barbara

With Average-or-Less Income the Norm, Flexibility in Housing Is Necessary

In response to Allan Roscoe’s letter “Please, Landlord, Please” — renting in Santa Barbara is indeed a challenge. However, individual landlords are not to blame — at least not completely. Large property management companies dictate rental policy. There’s the NIMBY attitude of those desperate to hold onto their slice of paradise, causing legal issues with who can rent to whom. The student population is increasing, and then there’s the city’s archaic zoning. All these contribute to the current housing crisis.

Large management companies dominate the market and create rental policy that influences other landlords — “No Pets No Smoking No Section 8.” Period. There is no case-by-case basis. Renting is becoming part of a system. It’s a different kind of rent “control.” People can’t have a pet? Are those on Section 8 automatically poor tenants? Through big management’s influence, we’re losing our individuality. In losing our individuality, we eventually lose personal responsibility and accountability.

In order to live in Santa Barbara with an average income, in order for Santa Barbara to survive as a city with people doing jobs of average or less income, there needs to be creativity and flexibility. Those who panic over vacation rentals should have recourse if there is a problem next door. Why control all vacation rentals when some are not problematic? Renting a home over a few months as a vacation rental can significantly help with annual expenses. It is a creative source of revenue and, if done well, can be an asset to city tourism.

Granny flats, separate studio space, when done efficiently and to code, could house those of moderate income and provide the homeowner with needed revenue. However, with current zoning, most studio spaces available are “illegal” nonconforming and most likely not to code. By taking a risk in renting space, there is no incentive to do work to code. The current system actually promotes hazardous, illegal living conditions.

The student population is increasing, and wages for the average worker are not keeping pace with the cost of renting in Santa Barbara. True, this is adesirable place to live, but in order for the working infrastructure to exist here — renters and landlords need freedom and incentive to be creative, not more controls. Increasing and improving density will ease our housing issues. What are the concerns and needs surrounding increased density? This is what the city and the people of Santa Barbara need to consider and plan for.

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