By Bonnie Carroll
It was a beautiful morning for the Housing Authority City of Santa Barbara Groundbreaking Ceremony, which brought together the village of dedicated people who are making Vera Cruz Village housing complex located at 116 East Cota Street a reality. This low-income housing tax credit project represents the latest development of affordable housing for the special needs and homeless population
The ceremony to launch construction of new special needs and homeless affordable housing took place at 10:00 am at the site of the Vera Cruz Village, 116 East Cota Street. It was hosted by the Housing Authority, and members of the City of Santa Barbara, where Mayor Cathy Murillo, Alejandra Gutierrez, Santa Barbara 1st District City Council Member, Oscar Gutierrez, Santa Barbara 3rd District City Council Member, and a representative for Congressman Salud Carbajal who was scheduled to speak but his assistant attended as well as Rob Fredericks, Executive Director/CEO of Housing Authority City of Santa Barbara who were onsite with shovels in hand to participate in the official ceremonial launch of the project.
Vera Cruz Village represents the HACSB’s latest affordable housing project designated for special needs and homeless individuals in the community. People experiencing homelessness have high rates of chronic mental and physical health conditions, co- occurring disorders, and barriers to receiving health care. Santa Barbara continues to grapple with adequately addressing this issue. The most recent Point-in-Time count completed in January 2020 found 1,897 homeless residents countywide, with 914 (48%) living in the City of Santa Barbara. The chronically homeless in the county rose from 423 to 614, a 45% increase (Santa Barbara County Point in Time Count 2020).
The property consists of two parcels with a combined total of approximately 11,000 square feet and sits across the street from the current Cota Street commuter parking lot. The proposed project provides 28 studio units for very low and low-income renters, a one-bedroom manager unit, and common area and office space to accommodate the provision of services and activities on-site. Construction is anticipated to start in December 2021 and be completed within 18 months. All studio units will be subsidized with Project Based Vouchers, making rent affordable at 30% of a resident’s income. Vera Cruz Village will include non-profits Garden Court, Inc and 2nd Story Associates (the Housing Authority’s affiliate non-profit) as ownership partners in the new development.
The ground breaking event culminates a multi-year effort by HACSB to create additional low-income housing for Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable residents to offset the rising and extreme homelessness rate taking place in the city which has been compounded by the on-going pandemic. “HACSB, our agency partners, the Santa Barbara City Council and many other supporters, are thrilled to see Vera Cruz Village move into the construction phase to make this much needed housing a reality,” said Rob Fredericks, CEO and Executive Director. “It is situated in an excellent downtown location, in a walkable neighborhood. It’s close to food shopping, public transportation and work opportunities. The housing complex will be a beautiful addition to East Cota Street, making good use of an unused parcel of land. The project perfectly represents the HACSB mission – to provide new, affordable, turnkey housing as well as wraparound support services vital for breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness in Santa Barbara.”
The LIHTC funding stimulates private investment in affordable housing by awarding tax credits to developers, who agree to reserve a portion or all their housing units for low-income households for a minimum of 55 years. Developers sell their tax credits to investors to obtain equity financing for their developments. This federal resource continues to be one of the state’s most successful public-private partnerships and accounts for approximately 90 percent of all affordable rental housing created in the United States today.
About the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara
The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara is a local public agency created for the purpose of providing safe, decent, and quality affordable housing and supportive services to eligible persons with limited incomes, through a variety of federal, state, local and private resources. Since 1969, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara has developed and/or secured over 4,000 units of affordable rental housing for Santa Barbara through a variety of federal, state, local and private funding sources. Please visit the website at hacsb.org.