Boxed In Prices by Frank Hansen,

To the Santa Barbara City Council and County Supervisors:

It is with tremendous respect to your positions and broad-reaching challenges that I earnestly request you address the housing crisis and rental price gouging situation in Santa Barbara. I see 40+ messages on Nextdoor alone per day from neighbors seeking housing due to “renoviction” and the like.

If City Council and our Board of Supervisors don’t recognize and declare a rental housing crisis immediately, we will lose the wonderful, longtime residents who make up the fabric of our blessed community. We are no longer going to be “Santa Barbara” — we will be, and are becoming, the land of short-term renters and the “exclusively rich” who are willing and able to pay nearly $4,000/month for an undersized (often less than 450 square feet) place to live with no basic amenities like parking, laundry, or even a proper kitchen sometimes!

How does a person like me, and the thousands of others affected by this parasitic situation in Santa Barbara stop asking for attention, but make it actionable? And of utmost importance, what do we ask for? How does one halt or reduce the “housing pandemic” we face?

The situation is duplicitous:

(A) Owners should be allowed to improve the condition of their property with the intent of increasing its value and desirability for new tenants — so long as it is unoccupied and they conduct these improvements with permits — and re-list at a reasonable rental amount commensurate with local incomes.

(B) A landlord should not be allowed to displace and evict no-fault tenants to retrofit a unit or dwelling, then invite them back with first right of refusal at “triple x?+” the former rental rate.

(C) Of utmost importance, where does a tenant go during the “x” months and up to two years of renovation with less than 2 percent rental inventory available in an increasingly over-priced market?

City and county leaders must recognize the hardship being imposed, especially on low- to medium-income wage earners. Even at $20/hour, which is above minimum wage, and a 40-hour work week, it equates to $3,200/month — before taxes!

Assuming a reasonably priced dwelling magically appears in a convenient neighborhood commensurate with one’s current living considerations (location, accessibility, price, pet allowances, parking, schools, and similar amenities), a 60- to 90-day notice with a “goodbye and good luck” check at that tenant’s current monthly rate is about as useful and realistic as spotting a purple unicorn running down State Street (except perhaps during Solstice).

Who covers the cost of the tenant moving in and out of their current rental to a temporary one (assumingthey can find one), then move back into their former rental? This is thousands of dollars including moving fees, re-establishing utility services, downtime from work, and other obligations (such as urgently moving your child from their current school to a new district because a landlord gave you 60 days to relocate to who knows where?). And after a landlord renovates a dwelling, the rental price should not exceed the annual percent increase of said unit, even if it causes a loss to the landlord.

Additionally, when a home being renovated is occupied with tenants in adjacent units, the hours of work should be adjusted for peaceable use of home. Seven a.m. is too early, when people are preparing breakfast, getting ready to go to work, or getting kids off to school with hammering, sawing, and other jarring intrusions — the repercussions generate irritation and very unhappy people, which is unacceptable in our previously delightful community. Furthermore, empty units under construction are an open invitation for criminals and trespassers — my neighbors and I have witnessed this in the middle of the day to three in the morning. Landlords conducting “renovictions” must be held accountable for the safety of remaining tenants … or provide temporary housing until the project is complete.

Members of City Council and County Supervisors, let this community know you are paying attention beyond an “affordable housing” concept that won’t support most of us being displaced because we are not able to live in a tiny studio apartment with kids, pets, home offices, adults sharing space while working multiple jobs. We need our homes — or at the very least far more than 60 days to find a new one … which at this point will no longer be in Santa Barbara, or even the state. The cries for help from neighbors and community members facing “renovictions” are cries of desperation for housing with space and amenities commensurate with their current living needs and conditions, and a couple of the bleak and overpriced rental options as seen on sites like Zillow, Craigslist, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, etc. Incomes in Santa Barbara are generally insufficient to accommodate this new paradigm of rental home pricing based on these “renovictions” and other factors – crippling our community and causing strife– especially since many are still recovering from the challenges of the Covid pandemic, and now, facing this housing pandemic.

What are realistic solutions for both landlords and tenants? I wish I knew. I looked into the “price per square foot” model used for home and commercial building sales, but that doesn’t translate to home rentals, it’s a different cost basis. What else?

Our local Rental Housing Mediation Program folks are great! But only helpful if the opposing party, a landlord, is willing, or obligated to participate. Landlords and tenants are actively seeking to find a better way to address this conundrum, but it isn’t fast enough for most.

I attended the HOPE “workshop” on June 28, 2023, chaired by S.B. Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez, who I respect tremendously, yet found it lacking in answers to the situations tenants are facing now. Task forces are valuable when you have time to explore a reasonable compromise, like State Street and parklets, but time has run out for tenants in the midst of a “renoviction” or similar no-fault eviction situation. Which city and county members are able to address and enact immediate change about this atrocity? I am not a politician, but know many of you personally, and as I’m in the midst of a “renoviction” and lawsuit due to a landlord exhibiting retaliatory and bad faith actions — I, and thousands of other Santa Barbara locals, need your help — I am not alone in this urgent request.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.