Monday, October 15 , 2018, 4:48 pm | Fair 74º

 
 
 
 

County Housing Authority Puts Tenants On Notice

Residents are concerned after the agency sends letters about its plans to transfer ownership of three Goleta developments

The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara has issued letters to occupants of 54 of its public housing units in Goleta, raising concerns from the tenants that they might be homeless.

The tenants hope to meet Housing Authority officials on Monday, when the agency has scheduled informational sessions on the changes.

“We wish to inform you that the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara (HACSB) is currently in the process of obtaining approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to transfer ownership of three Goleta public housing developments (54 residential units) to an affiliate, Surf Development Company, including the apartment you currently occupy,” said the letter from the Housing Authority sent to tenants. “This notice is to inform you of your rights under Federal Law.”

Technically, the transfer is a sale of the housing, said John Polanskey, director of housing development at HACSB, but it’s a sale of the units to its affiliate nonprofit. The 54 units, located in Goleta’s Old Town and on Ellwood Beach Drive in western Goleta would still remain affordable, he said.

“We hope to make the transition seamless,” said Polanskey, adding that ideally, the tenants would experience no changes to their current living situations as ownership changes from the organization’s public housing to its private Section 8 housing arm. “But because it’s officially a disposition, we had to send letters to the tenants,” he said.

Despite the HACSB’s assurances, tenants are on edge. Several are elderly and have voiced concerns that they would have nowhere to go if for some reason they didn’t qualify for the program.

Part of the reason for the move is to ensure continued funding for the housing projects.

“We’ve been running about 22 percent short in the funding over the last eight to nine years, because of appropriations,” said Polanskey. Moving toward Section 8 would change the funding scheme, but would also make the funds for the housing less vulnerable to appropriations, he said, adding that the Section 8 housing program has received a better cut of funds over the years than public housing.

Other counties, such as San Diego, have converted fully to Section 8 from public housing, Polanskey said, and the idea is being looked into by many jurisdictions, including the city of Santa Barbara, he said.

Polanskey can’t make any guarantees that the current residents’ living situations will remain stable.

“I can’t say that absolutely none of the tenants will be affected. They are different programs and although the rules are very similar, we will need to interview each tenant.” HACSB will try to assist any of its tenants who may experience difficulties qualifying for the Section 8 programs, said Polanskey. Each tenant would still get the Section 8 housing voucher and the organization would try to help them find housing elsewhere, if necessary, he said.

HACSB plans two meeting with the tenants on Monday at the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave. The meetings will be at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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