By Staci Caplan
Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS®
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Good Neighbor Awards recognize Realtors® who have made an extraordinary impact through volunteer service.
One of the most inspiring 2019 Good Neighbor Awards winners was Mark Solomon, a Realtor® and a veteran, who builds tiny homes for homeless veterans. The original Veterans Community Project is a village of 49 tiny houses on five acres in Kansas. Each 280 square foot home is furnished with everything needed including a fully stocked fridge, replete with an American flag and a service dog on the porch. Solomon is currently working on a project in Colorado and is looking to spread this model across the United States. Currently over 1,000 cities across the nation have asked him to help replicate this model. What started as an idea on a cocktail napkin is now changing lives, and quickly.
Even as I write this, my mind is coming up with a bunch of reasons why this wouldn’t work here. Our land is too expensive. Our permitting process too arduous, expensive and lengthy. What about zoning laws and NIMBYs? The list of reasons why it wouldn’t fly goes on and on.
Really? Veterans who have served our country are sleeping on the streets. It’s the most unconscionable aspect of the housing crisis. A crisis has been declared by our Governor, and yet we are operating in a “business as usual” mode. We need to be thinking in crisis mode. The crisis affects veterans, families, businesses, and our community. The Veterans Community Project is an example of a bold, cost-effective, expedient and dignified solution.
Santa Barbara recently celebrated the opening of Johnson Court, a group of 16 studio apartments for veterans. While this development is a step in the right direction, the project cost $5.8 million dollars, and was only possible through the generosity of the Johnson family. $5.8 million dollars for 16 studios is over $362,000 per unit. While this may sound reasonable by Santa Barbara standards, it is a ridiculously high price. We need much, much more.
NAR celebrated the 20th year of the Good Neighbor Awards by announcing that the winners’ grant awards of $10,000 would be doubled. “The fact that NAR can support important work by providing grant money and national exposure only further exemplifies the commitment that all Realtors® have made to their communities, clients and neighbors,” says NAR President Vince Malta, of San Francisco.
Do you know a REALTOR who is making a difference in our community? As part of NAR’s commitment to supporting the humanitarian efforts of its members it has begun accepting applications for the 2020 Good Neighbor Awards. Nominees for Good Neighbor Award entries must be received by Friday, May 8, 2020. Please contact the Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS at sbaor.org for applications and information.
Staci Caplan is a California Real Estate Broker and the owner of Pacific Crest Realty. She was born and raised in Santa Barbara and her passion for this special region translates into successful real estate transactions and thrilled clients. At our local Santa Barbara Associations of REALTORS ® , Staci has served on the Board of Directors, the Government Relations Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee, the Multiple Listing Committee, and the REALTOR ® Action Fund Committee. She can be reached at (805) 886-3970 or firstname.lastname@example.org.