Thursday, October 18 , 2018, 4:01 pm | Fair 78º

 
 
 
 

Lack of Workforce Housing Discussed at Santa Barbara Housing Conference

Panelists say absence of housing affects the ability to grow and thrive businesses

Participants in a panel discussion Friday at the fourth annual Santa Barbara Housing Conference are, from left, Anthony Schuck, business development manager at Volt Information Sciences; Patrice Ryan, vice president of human resources at Cottage Health; Dave Clark, president of Impulse Advanced Communications; and Matthew Fienup, executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University. Click to view larger
Participants in a panel discussion Friday at the fourth annual Santa Barbara Housing Conference are, from left, Anthony Schuck, business development manager at Volt Information Sciences; Patrice Ryan, vice president of human resources at Cottage Health; Dave Clark, president of Impulse Advanced Communications; and Matthew Fienup, executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The shrinking availability of workforce housing is the top concern for Santa Barbara County's South Coast business owners. 

At a panel discussion hosted by the Coastal Housing Coalition on Friday, the lack of workforce housing affecting local businesses was a hot-button issue.

Anthony Schuck, business development manager at Volt Information Sciences; Patrice Ryan, vice president of human resources at Cottage Health; Dave Clark, president of Impulse Advanced Communications; and Matthew Fienup, executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University, discussed how increasing home prices and scarcity play a crucial role in the ability to retain, as well as recruit, new employees.

The panelists echoed the concern that housing issues reduce the pool of applicants. It also affects the ability to grow and thrive businesses. 

Retaining talent has become difficult because Santa Barbara is an expensive city to live in, Schuck said. 

The absence of housing creates challenges when managing a contingent workforce with lower socioeconomic groups, and turnover rate has become a costly issue for companies, Schuck said. 

“As far as creating more opportunities for people to stay — it’s not looking good,” Schuck said. “Getting those (lower socioeconomic) candidates has become more challenging because we don’t have adequate housing to keep and retain them.”

Schuck noted the cost of housing has skyrocketed because people with wealth have bought apartment complexes, condominiums and one-bedrooms “that are increasingly becoming more expensive.” 

“If you don’t think we have a housing problem, then you shouldn’t be elected or in a position of the government,” Clark said.

Individuals have an obligation to become educated on the subject, Ryan said.

“It is a community issue, and a lot of times we look only at the government, but we all have to link arms,” Ryan said. “The employer community has to band together to come up with solutions.”

Cottage Health has implemented tactics to manage working individuals' demands. 

The health-care giant offers eligible employees benefits through Bella Riviera, which is 81 townhomes as affordable workforce housing, and encourages increased use of green methods of transportation through the commuter program.

If present trends continue, the city of Santa Barbara is expected to become a retirement community based around hospitality and food service jobs, according to Clark. 

He underlined the importance of working-class housing.

“We have to acknowledge that it’s not going to be a great community if we don’t figure out how to keep the middle class living in the area and part of the community,” Clark said. “Do you not want people to live here and work here?”

Clark’s statement received a round of applause from the crowd at the fourth annual Santa Barbara Housing Conference at the Carrillo Recreation Center.

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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