The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara Improves Lives and Neighborhoods

By Agencies
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Since 1969, the HACSB has been working to provide affordable housing to the city’s lower-income residents. These residents include seniors, veterans, disabled, those with mental health or drug and alcohol issues, or simply trying to create better lives for their families. Over the years, HACSB has helped thousands of people become housed, allowing them the space and opportunity to turn their lives around.

Expanding from its humble beginnings 55 years ago, today HACSB owns or manages over 1,400 units and annually administers more than 3,000 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

Last month, the Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance finalizing a $6 million loan agreement with the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara for the purchase of Quality Inn at 3055 De La Vina Street.  The HACSB held a recent forum via Zoom for public comment and questions from neighbors of the project. The project was generally well received based, primarily, on a thorough presentation that included specific reassurances and examples of other similar successful HACSB developments over the years.

“Our successful developments in the City of Santa Barbara are based on our commitment to being a good neighbor while creating beautiful housing and landscaping that fits seamlessly into the surrounding communities–all while answering the need for affordable housing,” said Rob Fredericks, HACSB CEO, at a recent community meeting.

These developments include a variety of properties, from a single-family home on Placido Avenue which houses Project Recovery’s detox program to El Carrillo Studios, a development with 61 studios for previously unhoused individuals to Eleanor Apartments, an independent living location for families that have at least one member living with a mental illness to Johnson Court, a development with 17 studios allocated for veterans without a home. Regardless of their intended use. HACSB properties are designed to offer more than just functionality. They also beautify and improve the neighborhoods where they are located, winning multiple awards in design and landscape over the years.

The reputation of the successful work of the Housing Authority brings praise and unsolicited feedback from community members, such as this after a local public hearing about the Housing Authority’s acquisition of the Quality Inn.

“We strongly support the City lending the Housing Authority funds for the acquisition and upgrading of the motel for supportive housing for our unhoused neighbors, especially fragile seniors. The track record of the Housing Authority is very positive and we trust that this project will be beneficial both for our neighborhood and our city.” ~ Anna and John DeVore

Despite the long-term efforts of HACSB, the regional housing options for people with extremely low to moderate income levels remain far below the level needed for the size of these populations in Santa Barbara. The challenge lies in the high cost of living in the city, where the average one-bedroom apartment rents for $3,194 a month. At this price, renters would need to earn $66.54 an hour or $127,760 a year for the rent to be 30% of their monthly income, the official cutoff for affordable housing based on government regulations.

To fill this unmet housing need, HACSB continues to purchase and renovate properties at appropriate locations throughout the city. Many of the individuals who qualify for this housing work in local schools, hospitals, stores and restaurants, providing the backbone that keeps the city functioning.

“We have, for all of our programs, a local preference for those who either live or work along the South Coast to meet the need for workforce housing,” Fredericks said.

Their properties also require income and background checks.

“We look at the history of the applicant.” Fredericks went on. “If you know if they had issues in the past, have they been in a program? Are they on a path to recovery? Are they willing to continue that path? All of those things go into the mix of looking at are they the right fit for this property in question.  We also abide by firm rules which can be enforced by onsite management.”

With these qualifying requirements, careful selection of property locations and in many properties, on-site 24/7 management, problems at HACSB housing developments have been few and far between since the housing development’s inception. Supportive services are also offered either on-site or as part of ongoing outreach from community organizations, helping residents continue to improve themselves and their lives.

“We do everything, from self-sufficiency classes to just personal counseling to literacy programs, whether it’s financial literacy or basic literacy, education, job training, all those services,” Fredericks said. “That’s what we offer through our partners providing supportive services and through our own resident services.”

Through the work of the HACSB, lives have been changed and communities uplifted. Research reported by the Housing Authority indicates expanding affordable housing helps reduce crime and encourages economic development. When those on the bottom rung of life’s ladder are lifted, everyone else is lifted along with them.