Over the last five years the cost of renting a home on the Central Coast has skyrocketed, forcing some of the most vulnerable members of our community to move away from the place they call home or risk falling into poverty and homelessness.
Recently, I attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the Gardens on Hope, a 90-unit affordable housing unit in Santa Barbara designed for low-income senior citizens and funded through a partnership between local governments and private companies, supplemented by federal resources.
I’ve visited similar developments across the Central Coast and am excited about the new opportunities they are creating for struggling families, veterans, and seniors.
When I served on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, I worked with my Republican and Democratic colleagues alike to secure federal funds to help turn affordable housing projects like the Gardens of Hope into a reality.
I’ve brought that same commitment to bipartisan problem-solving with me to Congress, and this year I helped pass a bipartisan bill that increased funding for community housing resources by $4.7 billion.
The funding has directly translated into nearly 400 new Section 8 vouchers in Santa Barbara County alone, giving the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara (HACSB) the means to open their waitlist for applications for the first time in nine years.
The Section 8 voucher waiting list for the City of Santa Barbara is open from October 1 through October 31 and I encourage qualifying Central Coast residents to apply.
I also supported the establishment of a new Mainstream Voucher program this year, which has provided HACSB with nearly half a million dollars to support individuals with mental and physical disabilities who face an increased risk of homelessness or institutionalization.
Sadly, our nation’s veterans often return from service with physical disabilities and mental health challenges that make it difficult to transition back to civilian life, making them more prone to homelessness.
As a veteran, it is heartbreaking to see so many service members priced out of housing assistance programs if they receive disability benefits after being injured in the line of duty.
This is unacceptable; which is why I’ve partnered with my Republican colleague, Congressman Lloyd Smucker, to introduce the Home for the Brave Act. This bill would exclude service-related disability compensation from being counted as a veterans’ income, so they can qualify for more housing opportunities.
One of the main factors contributing to homelessness in our community is domestic violence, as survivors often lack the means to seek safe housing on their own. In last year’s census of San Luis Obispo’s homeless population, 47 percent of respondents reported abuse by a domestic partner.
I’m proud to have worked closely with the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women to secure a $465,000 grant for the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County, giving them the resources to tackle this challenge head-on.
It’s not just our moral imperative to help our neighbors in need, it is also an economic one. Nearly 50,000 Central Coast households spend more than half their income on rent. This is a crippling barrier to economic growth that hurts residents and business-owners alike.
Every time I walk down State Street, another business owner has been forced to close their doors when their revenue stream is quickly outpaced by steep rent increases. When more people can afford to live near where they work and can afford to shop near where they live, we see less road congestion, better community engagement, and a thriving economy.
That’s why I’m an original cosponsor of the Rent Relief Act, which provides temporary relief to renters who paid more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent the previous year as we continue working to mitigate the national housing crisis.
I firmly believe that keeping a roof over your family’s head shouldn’t break the bank, and I will keep fighting for federal resources that ensure every hard-working individual on the Central Coast has access to a safe and affordable place to call home.