Laura Bode, head of Santa Barbara Rental Property Association | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Flush with an infusion of COVID relief dollars, the Santa Barbara Supervisors voted Tuesday to increase the amount of rental assistance being provided to 100 percent. That assistance spans a 15-month period.

“This is huge,” exclaimed Laura Bode, head of Santa Barbara Rental Property Association. “We are the only place in California to do this; we are the only place in the whole country to do this.”

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the maximum amount of rental assistance available to applicants had been $6,000 and 80 percent of the amount owed, with the tenant to pay the remainder.

Bode said most of the owners who belong to her organization have already worked out deals with their tenants; many have worked to help connect their tenants with rental assistance. Some tenants, she said, have not pursued such assistance based on the mistaken notion that all they had to pay was 25 percent. After the state moratorium on evictions expires June 30, Bode said, tenants will be on the hook for whatever unpaid rent they still owe. The 25 percent payment merely protected them from evictions prior to the June 30 deadline.

“The renters who owe most are typically the most economically vulnerable,” Bode said. She said the new rental support — administered through United Way — will prevent what otherwise could become a tidal wave of evictions.

To qualify, renters can make no more than 80 percent the Area Median Income. Special preference will be given to tenants making 50 percent or less. Translated, a single person making $66,750 or less could qualify under the 80 percent rule, and a single person making $41,650 would qualify under the 50 percent guideline.

If tenants lack the computer set-up needed to apply, Bode said, they should call the Santa Barbara Rental Property Owners Association. Otherwise, applications can be made via United Way at

Correction: Rather than first-come, first-served, the rental assistance will first go to tenants in the lowest income rungs.

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