Stacey Bailey remembers the exciting moment when she and her husband realized they would be leaving the ardent Arizona heat for beautiful, breezy Santa Barbara. Soon after, however, the Baileys faced realities familiar to those looking to buy a home in the coastal city.
Renting made keeping the couple’s miniature schnauzer, Kelly, nearly impossible, and owning meant an overwhelming mortgage and a major, commute-determining decision.
The couple were able to secure Bailey’s dream three-story, two-bedroom condo a year and a half ago after they discovered the Coastal Housing Partnership, a full-service housing benefit available to employees of companies that work with the local nonprofit.
Cottage Hospital is among the more than 40 companies in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties — employing a combined 35,000 workers — that pay the annual fee to be members of the partnership, which offers rental and refinancing assistance in addition to helping those looking to buy with special deals and discounts.
The Coastal Housing Partnership saved the Baileys $20,000 by helping to lower the mortgage on their East Beach Collection Santa Barbara home.
The local nonprofit has been assisting local employees into homes for more than 25 years. Although it has a valiant track record — helping more than 10,000 employees become homeowners — the nonprofit has been operating perhaps a bit too successfully under the radar.
Corby Gage, executive director of the Coastal Housing Partnership, said this week that many employers aren’t aware of the housing service.
“You hear, ‘I could never afford in Santa Barbara,’” she said. “Employers have a difficult time recruiting and retaining employees in our area. Offering a housing benefit is really smart.”
Gage is hopeful more businesses will sign up for the benefit, noting that the annual fee is based on the number of company employees.
Creating awareness for the nonprofit and home-shopping education is why the Coastal Housing Partnership will host its second Home Buying Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.
Gage said the education piece, which began 15 years ago, has been key to what the partnership offers.
“We find that lack of information and lack of upfront funds are two of the biggest obstacles to home ownership,” Gage said. “We encourage potential home buyers to go to a lender. Find out what you can afford. You want to be the strongest buyer you can be.”
As the buying and lending rules change, so do the seminars, Gage said, noting that the nonprofit soon will offer a new three-part seminar.
She said the Coastal Housing Partnership’s success is spreading mainly via word of mouth, which is evident when talking to one of the excited homeowners.
Bailey still can’t believe it’s her home — a 2½-bathroom, two-car garage home with a balcony, all within walking distance of downtown and the beach.
“I loved it right away,” she said. “That amount definitely helped get us in. I just think it’s a cool thing. People who work inside the city should be able to live there, too.”