I often hear people say, “We can’t build our way out of the housing problem, and if people cannot afford to live here then they should move.” The national housing shortage is no more evident than right here in Santa Barbara, but telling people to move is not the answer. As we celebrate national Housing America Month in October, now is a critical time to emphasize that we can strive to provide relief to some with affordable housing options.
A caring, healthy, and vibrant community must ensure service workers, first responders, teachers, and others can afford to live where they serve. But we’re falling far short, as the state suffers from a lack of 1.5 million affordable homes while only producing about 14,000 units annually. During October, the country recognizes local efforts to meet this demand and raise awareness for the need of additional affordable housing.
At the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, we’re proud to report that our efforts have resulted in 1,257 affordable homes, and we are creating another 90 new homes for frail seniors and 17 homes for veterans moving from homelessness. These units have been crucial as Santa Barbara faces a near-zero vacancy factor and median home prices approach record levels.
Low- and middle-income families and individuals are being priced out of the community, but the resources do exist to continue providing help. Santa Barbara County will receive approximately $9.38 million to address housing and shelter solutions from a set-aside of $500 million as Homeless Emergency Assistance Program (HEAP) from the state to address immediate homeless housing needs.
There are also two important funding propositions on the November ballot that will help address affordable housing. Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act, would authorize $4 billion statewide for affordable housing. Proposition 2 would authorize an additional $2 billion for homelessness prevention for persons in need of mental health services.
The City of Santa Barbara Planning Commission and City Council will be considering an inclusionary housing ordinance in the coming months. Inclusionary housing requires developers to provide a percentage of new units to households at affordable, low, or moderate price points. Many communities in California, such as Santa Clara and San Mateo, have successfully implemented inclusionary housing without dis-incentivizing new housing construction. I posit that Santa Barbara could successfully implement an inclusionary requirement of at least 10 percent, perhaps with additional bonus density incentives.
At his second inaugural address in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “I see one third of the nation ill housed, ill clad and ill nourished. But it is not a picture of despair that I paint, but one of hope … ” Unfortunately, today we are still seeing far too many people ill housed, ill fed, and ill clothed. If you believe as I do that that there is a need for affordable housing for our community, I urge you to support these measures and speak up in public hearings on these matters.
On Saturday, October 13, in honor of Housing America Month, the Housing Authority along with community partners will be celebrating Housing Santa Barbara Day at De la Guerra Plaza. We welcome everyone to come learn more about affordable housing and the resources that are available here in Santa Barbara.
Rob Fredericks is executive director and CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.