February 23, 2024
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Our view: Santa Barbara Foundation takes strong stance on housing crisis

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The Santa Barbara Foundation is putting its considerable weight behind a plan to restore a balance of housing supply and demand that has not existed on the South Coast for at least a generation.

For 25 years or more the prevailing NIMBY attitude has confined poor families to housing stress and blocked many middle-class families from home ownership.

That was not always the case in the Highway 101 corridor from Carpinteria to Goleta where housing has always been a stretch for working families but where the stretch has always been worth it in the long run.

The past 25 years have seen housing become increasingly unaffordable, but house prices have been extremely volatile – artificial limits on supply have led to excesses that made easy housing wealth an illusion for many during the Great Recession, after the Thomas Fire and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To counteract the rising risks of inadequate housing, a 40-person advisory team led by Foundation CEO Jackie Carrera and Chair Steve Hicks has proposed a comprehensive solution. 

Based on protecting rental housing units for the economically vulnerable, preserving existing housing and not letting it continue to deteriorate and producing more units countywide to meet the needs of those who are most in need of a decent place to live.

Financial incentives, employer-based housing and the philanthropic community to find ways to produce housing. One of the more interesting facets is the idea of partnering with faith-based and other community organizations who own land that could become housing. We’d add that there are government-owned parcels within city limits that could become mixed-use or affordable housing projects.

This problem has been a long time coming. It will not be solved easily and many of the best solutions will be countywide solutions.

Spurring additional economic development and affordable housing in Lompoc and Santa Maria will help relieve the stress of housing costs in the entire Greater Santa Barbara County area.  

Not everyone will love this idea. NIMBYs will cling to the memories of the past. The radical greens will want to ban cars and move to zero carbon before any shovel hits the ground.

But the current system just keeps too many cars on the road for far too long, hurting air quality and killing family life for many. The past may have been glorious but it got us to a point where we have more homeless individuals in Santa Barbara than in the entire city of Denver.   

Tearing down the Paseo Nuevo Mall downtown and turning it into a community with 1,500 or more residents is a kind of downpayment on a new way of looking at housing. The Santa Barbara Foundation has the capacity to do much, much more. 

But it will not be able to do it alone — it will take commitments from wealthy people, corporations and the government to make it work.

Let’s preserve what we have. And not be afraid to move some dirt.

CONDEMNING SENSELESS VIOLENCE

We’ve written recently on these pages about the scourge of antisemitism making an appearance in the region on the eve of the Jewish New Year.

The Hamas attacks on Israel on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War show what happens when hatred for the Jewish faith becomes a global cause.

It is hard to grasp the scale of the slaughter, even in a region that has seen its share of mass casualty attacks.  

With a population of just under 10 million, Israel has lost 1,000 citizens. For the United States, with a population of 330 million that would be 33,000 or more than 10 times the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. There is no justification for these senseless murders.