Santa Barbara Housing Conference Summary

On Friday, April 10, leaders and community members came together at the Coastal Housing Coalition’s Santa Barbara Housing Conference to discuss the significant issues affecting workers county-wide. The South Coast has become a difficult place for many citizens to both live and work in, as people are frequently forced to move to Solvang, Lompoc, Santa Ynez, and other North County cities due to a limited and expensive housing market in our immediate area.

At the conference, True North Research revealed the results of a survey which polled nearly 3,000 Santa Barbara County employees across diverse industries and found that 70 percent couldn’t afford to live within 25 minutes’ commute of where they work. Those that do live near where they work report spending up to 60 percent of their income on housing costs alone; the rule of thumb is that roughly 30% of income should be allocated to housing costs. Dr. Timothy McLarney, president of True North Research, characterized the issue as a “tale of two work forces,” one that entered the housing market before 2000, and one that arrived on the scene more recently. The proposed solution to the problem includes the development of new condos and apartment rentals built to be affordable for the South Coast’s middle class, due to higher density and smaller units. “They aren’t cheap”, said Dr. McLarney, “but they’re cheaper than what’s on the market right now.”

Bildsten Architecture and Planning was gratified to see so many community leaders participating in the discussion of such an important issue in our community. Affordable and employer-sponsored housing for the too-often displaced Santa Barbara workforce is one that we are working to solve one project at a time. By making use of the Average Unit-size Density (AUD) new zoning in key areas of the City of Santa Barbara, higher-density housing and mixed-use development will move us towards a more walkable, diverse and sustainable community. Well-designed condos, multi-family, mixed use housing projects could provide numerous, diverse homes, allowing residents to walk or bike to work instead of taking the congested 101. Events like last week’s housing conference allow us all the opportunity to consider solutions to the multi-faceted housing problem on the South Coast.