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Our view: High housing costs put workers at risk

By and   /   Friday, November 29th, 2019  /   No Comments

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One of the overlooked pieces of the housing puzzle on the Central Coast is how much high housing prices impact the real cost of living in the region.

And how much of our working population subsists at a level below a real cost of living, with the domino effect of vastly increased demand for community services. Recent research by the United Ways of California points out the longer-term impact of high costs and the stress on community services.

We recently reviewed a presentation that United Ways executive Henry Gascon provided to community and business leaders in Santa Barbara. But the data for San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties paints a similar story — high housing costs are contributing heavily to a situation where 30 to 40 percent of our households are at risk.

Santa Barbara County is the worst. According to United Ways data, 38 percent or 46,400 households are earning less than it costs to be economically self sufficient. Those numbers are $33,420 for a single person, $50,316 for a family of two and $90,817 for a family of four with two young children.

The data suggests that 97 percent of the households have at least one wage earner — these are not welfare cases. And the Santa Barbara County numbers reflect a balance between the South County’s extremely tight housing market and Santa Maria, which is growing in population and building more housing.

Ventura County is slightly better with 32 percent of households below the real cost level. But Ventura County is a lot bigger, which means that 69,350 households are below the line. The income levels to be self-sufficient are virtually identical for single and two-adult households and actually slightly higher at $92,579 for a family of four.

San Luis Obispo County is in slightly better shape but still, an astounding 30 percent or nearly 25,000 households are below the real cost of living. The income required is around $30,000 for one person, $45,000 for two and $84,600 for a family of four.

The social costs of living on the Central Coast are staggering. Yet another reason for politicians to show some courage and step up on the housing issue.

GALLO HELPED FOUNDATION GROW

Santa Barbara Foundation President and CEO Ronald Gallo will step down Jan. 1.

Jackie Carrera, the foundation’s chief revenue and business development officer, will be interim CEO while a nationwide search for a new CEO is conducted.

When Gallo arrived on the Central Coast 12 years ago to helm the foundation, he quickly grasped the social issues that were spinning out from high housing costs.

He expanded services into the Santa Maria area, the Santa Ynez Valley and Lompoc, where the needs were greatest and where a growing number of workers for the South Coast were living.

Under Gallo’s watch, the Santa Barbara Foundation grew its assets to more than $500 million and it restructured its efforts. It weathered the great recession in strong financial shape and continue to provide support through scholarships and other programs that are part of its long legacy.

The size and strength of the Santa Barbara Foundation make it a leading social organization on the Central Coast. Gallo helped move the foundation into a bigger role in Santa Barbara County and the region.

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