I have lived in this area for only 15 years, so I am a relative newcomer, but I am struck by the number of properties that are sitting empty month after month. There are lots of complaints about the (dehumanized) homeless, of whom I am one, for the vacancies on State Street downtown. Let me suggest an alternative narrative.
It is no wonder that the shops and restaurants on State Street are doing so poorly. A lot of the people who own houses here are rarely ever here. The vast majority of people in the Santa Barbara area are working-class and middle-class people who are so squeezed by the exorbitant rents and cost of living here that they have no disposable income to benefit the merchants on State Street.
The people who have money, who own second and third homes in Santa Barbara as investment properties, are never here. They make sure they’re in California less than 50 percent of the year, so they don’t have to pay California state tax, and they park their money here, in the form of empty mansions.
One way or another, what Santa Barbara needs to do, to solve homeless and the empty storefronts on State Street, is to dis-incentivize rich people from buying real estate as an investment, because that is the bane of our existence.