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Completed Grace Village Apartments Will Welcome Senior Residents in April

Affordable senior housing project in Santa Barbara celebrates completion with ribbon-cutting ceremony

People tour the Grace Village Apartments affordable senior housing development at 3869 State St. Monday, which is set to open in April. Click to view larger
People tour the Grace Village Apartments affordable senior housing development at 3869 State St. Monday, which is set to open in April.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Another Santa Barbara housing option dedicated to low-income seniors is available with the completion of the Grace Village Apartments development on Upper State Street, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday. 

The complex has 57 one-bedroom, one-bath units for rent ranging from $506to $1,012 a month, based on area median income, and is set to welcome residents in April on the former site of Grace Lutheran Church at 3869 State St.

The three-story building offers on-site management and supportive services, a community room, a garden, laundry facilities and elevators, as well as a rooftop deck and balconies for each unit. 

Applicants qualified to live at Grace Village, aged 62 or older, have $43,200 as the maximum amount of income to qualify.

Thirty-five units will have project-based vouchers benefiting from federally subsidized Section 8 rent vouchers, meaning residents will only pay 30 percent of their income for rent. 

Seven applicants that have been preliminarily selected are veterans and five for residents who experienced homelessness, according to Skip Szymanski, Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara's deputy executive director. 

The facility is just a few steps from the new Target, The Marc apartment complex and La Cumbre Plaza.

It’s the second development to be finished under Santa Barbara's Average Unit-Size Density Incentive Program, which aims to encourage smaller, more affordable rental housing near transit hubs and services.

The idea of Grace Village began about 10 years ago when Grace Lutheran Church members began to explore ways to continue its service to the Santa Barbara community after decades of declining membership. 

The congregation held its final service in 2015 after deciding the previous year to gift the A-frame church and property to the city’s Housing Authority for co-development with Front Porch Development, which specializes in senior affordable housing and is part of the nonprofit California Lutheran Homes.

“When we were a size that was too small to be functional, we never lost the hope and dream that we would be a service to this community — from the beginning, there was no discussion, it was housing for low-income seniors — that was always the vision,” said Pat Wheatley, vice-chair of the city’s Housing Authority commission and Grace Housing, Inc. president. “The church was small but mighty.”

The 57-unit Grace Village Apartments at 3869 State St. was built on the former site of Grace Lutheran Church. Click to view larger
The 57-unit Grace Village Apartments at 3869 State St. was built on the former site of Grace Lutheran Church. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Rob Fredericks, executive director of the city's Housing Authority, said the expense of maintaining a home is difficult for many seniors on a fixed income.

Locally, about 45 percent (or 3,066) of the applicants on the Santa Barbara's Housing Authority waiting list for affordable housing are seniors, he said.

“These people are currently paying the majority of their income on rent, having to choose food, health care, and other necessities just to have a home,” Fredericks said. 

New affordable housing helps homeless seniors move off the streets and into apartments, he said.

“Without housing, everything else falls apart,” Fredericks said. “It is the foundation for a healthy, stable life.” 

Fredericks said the need for affordable senior housing is growing nationwide, and in California, the senior population is predicted to increase from 4.5 million to 8.8 million people by 2030. 

Nearly 40 percent of the county’s senior population is economically insecure, according to UCLA’s Elder Economic Security Index.

Vacant rental properties are rare in Santa Barbara, but affordable ones are even harder to find.

Villa Santa Fe Apartment resident Angela Bell, 87, is living in a senior apartment complex owned by the city’s Housing Authority and attended the Grace Village ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.

“Housing has been incredibly good to me, and I’m grateful I’m living in such a wonderful place,” said Bell, who has resided in Santa Barbara since 1991 and at Villa Santa Fe Apartments for 22 years. “I’m able to live independently and within my income.” 

Bell was among a couple of hundred people, including city leaders and elected officials, assembled for the event.

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

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