Live near work.
It’s a concept that’s vexed tri-county businesses as they’ve struggled to recruit and retain employees. The Santa Barbara-based Coastal Housing Partnership has made a name for itself by helping the region’s employees buy homes and rent apartments near their jobs.
The nonprofit works with about 50 business owners who pay an annual membership based on their employee counts. At no cost to the employee, the partnership reduces homebuyers’ closing costs, saves up-front costs on mortgage refinancing and partners with landlords to offer monthly rental reductions. It has expanded its mission by working with residential developers who will contribute a portion of the purchase price toward employees’ closing cost or unit upgrades typically amounting to $5,000, CHP Executive Director Corby Gage said.
“Keeping up-front costs of buying a home down is critical,” she told the Business Times. “The more you can save an employee up front, the less time they have to wait to buy a home and the sooner they can get to work.”
The partnership is holding its fifth annual home-buying fair on May 14 at the Ventura Beach Marriott, where potential homebuyers can meet with real estate agents, lenders and residential builders and attend seminars on the home-buying process and local market conditions.
“One of the biggest obstacles is that is that people don’t know where to start,” Gage said. “Until they understand the process better and get to a lender, they do not understand how much they can afford and how to begin. Especially with what people pay in rent in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, many find that they can buy.”
The Coastal Housing Partnership has helped more than 10,000 of the region’s employees become homeowners in its 29-year history.
“As housing prices go up, there has been more demand for our services,” Gage said.
About 12,000 Ventura County residents commute daily to Santa Barbara and around 68,000 make the trip to Los Angeles County, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey.
Without a variety of housing options, prices spike, commutes times and traffic increase, and cities and counties lose out on potential sales tax revenue. Businesses may not consider the Tri-Counties at all, given its tight housing market.
“We need to provide housing where people work,” said Craig Minus, president of the Coastal Housing Coalition, a nonprofit workforce housing advocacy group. “When people are on the road for an hour each way, that takes away from family time and civic involvement. If we continue the path we’re on now, the freeways will stay jam packed and our carbon footprints will grow.”
Minus pointed to the success of Santa Barbara’s Average Unit Density Program, which allows 63 units per acre instead of the usual 35 and supports development near transit and transportation services. The city thought it would take eight years to get 250 AUD units in the pipeline but it has taken fewer than two, he said.
“That speaks to the hunger for the project,” Minus told the Business Times. “How do you get rental housing on the ground? AUD proves that reduced parking and density is one way.”
The Coastal Housing Partnership now serves about 40,000 employees. Gage expects that number to grow as rents increase, she said.
“We need more housing in this area — it’s a challenge,” Gage said. “It’s important to make sure the people serving our community are able to live here.”
Funding for performing arts
The stage is set for the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center’s next act.
The Foundation for the PAC has launched a new endowment program that will provide competitive grants for PAC-related performance expenses. The fund has already reached $26,000.
In collaboration with the city of San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly, the foundation and its donors provide a 75 percent rental discount for community performance groups but that doesn’t cover lighting, rigging and technical fees.
“We are ambassadors to the community performing arts groups and we want to build the bridges for them to be able to continue to use the PAC for the purpose it was created,” foundation board member Libbie Agran said. “This fund helps us do that more than ever before.”
The new fund is named after symphony musician and PAC principal supporter Clifton Swanson.
The Clifton Swanson PAC Community Access Fund is currently accepting applications from nonprofit arts groups that have secured dates to perform at the PAC during the 2016-17 season.
• Contact Alex Kacik at [email protected]