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Santa Barbara Community Housing Corp. Steps In to Buy Troubled Low-Income Lompoc Properties

Santa Barbara Community Housing Corp. has purchased two Lompoc apartment buildings that were owned by a troubled and now-defunct local housing agency, and will keep them as low-income residences.

When the Lompoc Housing and Community Development Corporation dissolved without notice earlier this year, there were last-minute closures of homeless shelters and properties fell into bank receivership.

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury called out the county and Lompoc’s Redevelopment Agency for failing to property monitor millions of dollars in loans given to the LHCDC, which had a long history of noncompliance, warning letters, overcharging for affordable units, missing loan payments and failing to provide financial records.

The nonprofit Santa Barbara Community Housing Corp. now owns an eight-unit building at 500-504 N. T St., and an 18-unit building on North E Street, executive director Emmet Hawkes told Noozhawk.

“We wanted to maintain some of the housing that was low-income, and not let it all fall into disrepair and lose market value,” Hawkes said.

Both apartment buildings were held in receivership by Pacific Western Bank, which has taken over many of the former LHCDC properties and is marketing them for sale.

“The T Street apartments were really in poor condition, so we’ve gone in, replaced the roof, replaced the windows, painted, put in new heaters, new appliances,” said Hawkes. “We basically just have redone all the units.”

The E Street building was purchased recently, so SBCHC is working with Cochrane Property Management to organize and work on the units.

“One of the things that we recognized was that they were owned by a nonprofit, and that nonprofit obviously came up on bad times and dissolved,” Hawkes said. “We wanted to maintain that low-income housing, and we felt we were in a financial position to step in.”

SBCHC is looking at other LHCDC properties but isn’t actively pursuing any right now.

The county is still working on a forensic audit of the Lompoc housing agency’s finances, partly to track the $2.89 million it invested in LHCDC properties.

The District Attorney’s Office has served search warrants to help track down financial documents, and county agencies are investigating allegations of embezzlement of government loans and grants by LHCDC.

“We are in the process of getting all the documents to the county auditor so that they can conduct the initial review,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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