Journal of Housing & Community Development

Learning About Affordable Housing in Santa Barbara

August 5, 2021
by Libby Miller

The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara (HACSB) won a 2020 Award of Excellence for Administrative Innovation for launching the annual Housing Santa Barbara Day. Nominated from among the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.     

Like many other communities in California, Santa Barbara is facing an extreme housing crisis. Low-to-moderate income people continue to struggle to find affordable housing, which contributes to a rising homeless population. Looking for a way to connect HACSB residents with affordable housing resources and encourage them to advocate for expanded housing opportunities for their own community, the agency held an inaugural Housing Santa Barbara Day on Oct. 13, 2018.  

Housing Santa Barbara Day (HSBD) was created to bring awareness to the housing challenges faced by people of all income levels. The event featured providers who are experts in affordable housing, home buying opportunities, and supportive services for seniors, people with disabilities, and working families. The free event continues to be held in the fall, hosting workshops on tenants’ rights and first-time homebuyers’ opportunities.   

HSBD was designed to be an annual gathering for the community to mobilize and bring to fruition housing solutions. Offered on a weekend each year, it allows people who work during the week the opportunity to attend. As the event grew in its second year, HACSB was able to do more planning and expand the day. By collaborating with over 30 local partners, housing providers and other agencies the housing authority provided about 3,000 residents with information at its event in 2019. Bilingual workshops were offered on accessory dwelling units, homeownership programs, and tenant rights and responsibilities. A print guide was also created to hand out to attendees as a resource guide to take home. The 2019 Santa Barbara Affordable Housing Resources Guide featured more than 60 providers available to assist people in a variety of ways to secure housing.  

Education and advocacy remain a central focus of the event. Many attendees spoke one-on-one with local elected officials who were invited to participate in HSBD. The goal was to ensure HSBD was not only an informative day but also one filled with fun and enjoyment with live music by local bands, food trucks, face painting, coloring, and interactive games. 

In conjunction with HACSB’s 50th anniversary, attendees were invited to take a trolley tour of affordable housing complexes around the downtown area. These tours explained the process for applying for housing and gave tour-goers a glimpse into multiple affordable housing properties.  

Low-income residents continuously encounter unaffordable rental costs and limited availability, particularly in a high-cost area such as Santa Barbara. At HSBD, housing providers were invited to sign-up eligible people to their waitlists and dispense information on how to find and secure housing in the area. HACSB also had laptops on hand to take applications for its various waitlists. In addition to focusing on those facing housing difficulties one of the event goals was to attract landlords, property owners, and individuals in higher income brackets not facing housing uncertainty so that they can participate in solving the housing crisis.  

Several community partners provided significant funding for HSBD. The primary sponsor was the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF), which is the largest community foundation in the region. Other sponsors included local foundations, banks, non-profits, a public safety initiative, and more. Every partner paid a tabling fee, provided staff time, and publications to distribute. All of these efforts helped the housing authority reach outside of its customary client base and promote meaningful interactions between residents and community partners.  

By the conclusion of the event in 2019:  

  • 1,133 residents received information on housing options 
  • 233 people were provided supportive services resources  
  • 98 people received information on home purchase programs  
  • 80 people received information on counseling services available  
  • 70 residents registered to vote  
  • 70 people received information on affordable healthcare clinics  

The success of HSBD made it a vital part of the community, and HACSB intends to host the event annually. As the event continues to grow, the goal is to also expand community involvement in the planning and organizing stages. 

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