The Canon Perdido affordable homes completed by Habitat for Humanity in 2014. | Credit: Courtesy

Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County is looking to expand on its resources with a new pilot program that would provide thousands of dollars toward repairs and accessibility modifications for low-income homeowners in the city.

In Tuesday’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting, the organization is asking the city for $50,000 in grant funding to start the Low-Income Homeowner Rehabilitation Pilot Program, which will fund repairs for homeowners whose household combined income is below 80 percent of the area median income (below $80,000 per year).

Over the past two decades, Habitat for Humanity has helped low-income residents and families build more than 22 new homes in the South County area, and led efforts to rebuild or repair at least another 180 homes, many of which are occupied by seniors, families, and children.

If approved, the initial $50,000 would come out of the city’s inclusionary housing reserve funds, and would allow for the repairs of three to six homes in Santa Barbara over the first year, according to the report and statement provided by Habitat for Humanity. 

“It is critical that Santa Barbara retains its current affordable housing stock through rehabilitations that ensure decent and sustainable housing,” the statement read. “A one-time investment in a home repair can greatly extend the life of the home and is far more cost-effective than new construction.”

While renters usually dominate the conversations around affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity found that low-income homeowners can be disproportionately affected by the high costs of home repairs; the average annual income for home repair clients is around $30,000, according to Habitat for Humanity’s report, while the project costs can run anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 per home.

“The vast majority of government funding targets rental housing exclusively,” the report stated. “While this is important, Santa Barbara has a vast array of affordable housing needs, including low- and very-low-income households who own their home but have scarce resources for needed repairs.”

With this program, Habitat for Humanity would be focusing on home repairs for “aging-in-place adaptations” and accessibility modifications for low-income senior homeowners. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said, the average age of home repair clients is 78 years old, and more than 70 percent of the homeowners served have a disability.

Habitat for Humanity will handle everything from processing applications to directly overseeing the entire project by working with homeowners, contractors, and subcontractors to acquire permits and complete construction.

The City Council is expected to approve the grant funding in this week’s consent agenda.

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