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Housing needs discussed at community event

Housing needs discussed at community event

Originally posted on Santa Barbara News-Press

In celebration of Housing America Month, more than a dozen local organizations on Saturday set up shop in De la Guerra Plaza for the first-ever Housing Santa Barbara Day.

Organized by the Housing Authority of the city of Santa Barbara, the goal was to provide information on workforce and subsidized housing options, supportive services and other home purchasing programs.

Housing America Month has been recognized for the past 10 years as a way to celebrate the success and raise awareness for the need of more affordable housing.

The City Council made a declaration earlier this month, and Rob Fredericks, CEO and executive director for Housing Authority, told the News-Press that people in his agency wanted to get out and do something about it.

Jerry Morales, a leasing agent with the Housing Authority, recommended the agency do more to get the community engaged.

By having one central location with various services, the hope was to disburse as much information as they could to those who need it more.

"There's a housing shortage throughout the United States, and in Santa Barbara it's no more evident," Mr. Fredericks said. "We have a lot of people who are suffering from homelessness, we have a lot of families that are doubling and tripling up that need their own home. We're trying to get those funding resources to build what's needed in the community."

One of the groups involved during the inaugural event was Peoples' Self-Help Housing. The group serves roughly 5,000 people annually, focusing on low-income families who earn 30 to 80 percent the area median income throughout the Central Coast, said John Fowler, president and CEO.

"This is just a great resource for us to be able to reach the group that really have the need," he said.

People's Self-Help Housing saw plenty of foot traffic throughout the day, so much so that the group ran out of applications and handed out cards to those who were interested in learning more. The group was promoting its newest location, Jardin de las Rosas at 510 Salsipuedes St. The 40-unit complex features one to three bedrooms per unit for individuals and families.

As is the case with other units, residents are provided supportive services for marriage or family issues, alcohol-related problems or financial troubles, Mr. Fowler said.

"Just putting a roof over their head isn't enough," he said.

Developing along the Haley Street corridor was a need identified by the city and with the construction of housing the hope is that others will begin to invest in that area, Mr. Fowler said.

The Housing Authority also focuses on low-income housing but has expanded its mission to serve "the missing middle," or those who make 80 to 120 percent of the median income but don't quality for low-income programs, Mr. Fredericks said.

"There's a need for serving people across the economic spectrum," he said.

An idea board was set up in the middle of the venue to provide feedback for the organizers. Some ideas included more workforce housing, an increase in studio apartments and the need to better serve the middle-class. One of the ideas that struck Mr. Fredericks was from a child who drew a picture of a skyscraper for the homeless.

"The young kids recognize the need to provide for the must vulnerable of our community," he said.

Representatives from both the city and county governments were on hand Saturday to assist.

"Not only do you need the public will, you need the political will to make things happen," Mr. Fredericks said. "It shows that we have that."