Marcia Fudge, secretary for Housing and Urban Development, announces California will receive $115 million in disaster relief for January's storms. | Credit: Courtesy @HUDPacific

The “lion’s share” of a large disaster relief package is headed for California, said Marcia Fudge, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who visited Santa Barbara Friday morning to make the announcement and to check in on two homeless housing projects that receive funding from the federal department she leads.

“Hit hard and more often” by the winter’s big storms, California will receive $115 million out of a total $138 million in aid due to floods, muds, and wind damage. Alabama is to receive $10 million and Georgia $12 million for similar natural disasters plus tornadoes.

“Disasters are coming more and more frequently,” the cabinet secretary told an assembly of public officials and reporters gathered at Direct Relief. Fudge feels for local affairs; before becoming President Biden’s HUD secretary, she represented much of Ohio’s Cuyahoga County in Congress for 12 years and was the mayor of Warrensville Heights for eight years before that.

With Secretary Fudge was Congressmember Salud Carbajal, to whom she said that Congress should allow HUD to take action faster. 

“My job is to help people rebuild. I take it personally,” Fudge said. “This aid is for storms that happened almost a year ago. We can’t come in until FEMA makes its reports and tells HUD what is needed. Let HUD take action sooner,” she asserted.

Secretary Fudge later told the Independent that President Biden has included in the next federal budget a permanent amount for HUD’s Community Development Block Grant for disaster recovery. That would help to speed HUD’s recovery funding after a disaster, she said. Whether the budget will pass is unknown, however, as Kevin McCarthy, in his quest to become Speaker of the House, made deals with conservative Republicans that gave them greater power to kill spending increases.

HUD Secretary Fudge (left) visits Buena Tierra in Goleta with Rep. Salud Carbajal, John Polanskey of the county Housing Authority, and HUD advance team member Bre Maxwell. | Credit: Courtesy

After attending the quarterly meeting of city and county managers and officials to discuss disaster relief and homelessness, Secretary Fudge continued on to Buena Tierra, a permanent supportive housing project still under construction at the former Super 8 motel in Goleta. Accompanied by John Polanskey — the persuasive and persistent director of housing development for the Housing Authority for Santa Barbara County who saw the property slip out of his hands one year only to regain it the next — Fudge took in the room that will become a meeting area as well as one of the small housing units.

One of Buena Tierra’s biggest supporters has been Yardi Systems, which produces software systems for property management. “They were the first to step up to the plate,” said Polanskey. Yardi not only created the software the Housing Authority uses, “but they make the software that HUD uses to manage your properties,” he told Fudge.

The group from HUD had arrived from a visit to San Bernardino yesterday and was able to enjoy an evening meal in Santa Barbara, said Andra Higgs, a spokesperson for the regional HUD office. “We even had time for a bicycle ride this morning,” he said, familiar with the area from his days at Dos Pueblos High School and Goleta Valley Junior High before that.

The group ended their tour of the area at the Gardens of Hope, a low-income senior housing project fundraised, built, and managed by the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara. As the agency does for many very low-income residents in the county, HUD provides housing vouchers for seniors living at the 89 studios, which were completed in 2020.


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