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Study Predicts Lack of Housing May Drive Away Businesses

Coastal Housing Coalition analysis of Santa Barbara County’s changing demographics and housing trends sees impact on middle-income workers and local companies

Expanding businesses in South Santa Barbara County are likely to leave the area because there aren’t enough skilled workers to filled the needed positions, according to a Coastal Housing Coalition study published Friday.

The CHC analyzed Santa Barbara’s changing demographics and housing trends due to the worry that housing scarcity and rising prices were excluding middle-income workers from owning a home, thereby hurting local businesses.

On the South Coast, the coalition suggested that community leaders make land-use decisions that support the development of middle-income housing. People ages 25 to 44 years old own 15 percent of the South Coast homes.

In contrast, North County communities feature available housing but a lack of jobs, according to the study.

“The North County will need to pursue the creation of quality jobs and educational opportunities for its residents to absorb the existing housing stock,” the study reads.

While the agriculture and wine industry have been bright spots for the Central Coast, the middle class will continue to leave without attractive jobs or available housing.

“As the recovery hopefully becomes more robust and generates more jobs, the jobs/housing balance will worsen, given the existing constraints of environmental restrictions and land-use policies,” the study reads. “It will be wise for the community to plan for that eventuality now if we are able to preserve our middle-income workers.”

Some key trends include the dramatic widening of the housing prices and median household income gap on the South Coast, middle-income workers have difficulty finding homes despite the decline in house prices since the mid-2000’s, and rents remain high due to low vacancy rates.

Ultimately, the middle class will commute or move away altogether.

“A suitable workforce may not be locally available to fill needed positions within South Coast businesses, especially as workers retire,” the study reads. “There is therefore a growing probability that firms will expand elsewhere or relocate altogether outside the region.”

Check back with Noozhawk for an expanded story on Friday’s CHC conference in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkBiz, @noozhawk and @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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