In 2019, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara (HACSB) marked its 50th anniversary. Established in 1969, HACSB is at the forefront of solving the local housing crisis by working to create safe, decent and quality affordable housing, and support services for eligible individuals with limited incomes and workforce residents.
“Having a safe place to call home is the foundation of life and everything else springs from there,” said Rob Fredericks, HACSB executive director/CEO, whose tenure spans 24 years with HACSB.
“Over the last half century, the Housing Authority has created a portfolio of safe, decent affordable housing for our low-income families, seniors and disabled individuals,” he said. “Before the late 1960s, there was very little in terms of permanent affordable housing options. Through our efforts, we have developed 1,369 units that we own and manage.
“This is in addition to our rental housing-subsidy program, the Federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. We pride ourselves in taking more of a mission driven approach to our daily work. We are solution-oriented.
“We identify the need and address those needs by being an active developer of affordable housing and seeking new grants for rental subsidy programs,” he said.
Planting the seeds for setting up HACSB took place long before 1969, with the establishment of the National Housing Act of 1937. Designed to provide subsidies to be paid from the U.S. government to local public housing agencies, the act was intended to improve living conditions of low-income families.
In 1938, the city of Santa Barbara sought a share of $100 million in federal funding for low-cost housing and slum-clearance projects. The dream of creating a local housing authority became a reality when Proposition C was approved by voters in 1969.
In 1972, Monteria and Presidio Springs were the flagship HACSB housing developments, followed by Pearl Gardens, named in honor of benefactor Pearl Young, who with her husband Nelson realized a lifelong dream to develop a townhouse project on South Soledad Street.
Significant additions to the HACSB housing portfolio include Elise Way, Olive Street apartments (1980), housing units at Canon Perdido, Vine and Olive and Ortega and Olive (1981), Wilson Cottages, Vista La Cumbre and Old Coast Highway (1983), Arroyo Miradero (1983), Vista La Cumbre senior housing, Olive townhouses and Castillo Court (1984).
Housing for the homeless, including people with AIDS and their families, was built in 1993, followed by 82 N. La Cumbre (1995), Garden Court on De la Vina (2000), Hoit Gardens remodel (2001), Paseo Voluntario and Casa de las Fuentes (2004), El Carrillo (2005), Artisan Court (2011), Bradley Studios for special-needs and low-income residents, a detox facility in collaboration with CADA, and Grace Village (2018).
During its 50th anniversary year, HACSB broke ground on The Gardens on Hope, a senior apartment complex; and Johnson Court, designed to serve low-income and homeless veterans. Both projects will be ready for occupancy in early 2020.
Today, HACSB offers high-quality residential properties for low-income residents using advanced designs for developing housing with reduced parking demand and smaller, more compact units that are efficiently laid out that allows for increased densities without having a negative impact on the neighborhoods.
The agency is also taking the lead in creating education and social service programs to enhance the quality of life for those they serve.
“From experience, we know that many of our clients need more than just housing, especially our special needs clients, whether they are seniors, homeless individuals or disabled family members,” Fredericks said.
“The support system that you and I may have grown up with and may take for granted today, does not exist for many of our clients who move into our affordable housing,” he said.
“We understand that in order to create a system of success, we need to provide more than just housing,” he said. “To do so, we created a Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps the families set goals such as finishing education and obtaining a better job.
“We also have parenting classes, financial literacy classes, health classes and after school youth programs. All of these are really whole person care programs which sets the clients up for a trajectory of success.”
Looking to the future of HACSB, Fredericks acknowledges: “In the next 50 years, we are going to have to continue to develop more affordable housing, more than what we have developed to date. The problem is how you do that in a built out city? We need to increase density, while at the same time preserving the character of our community.
“This will not be an easy task,” he said. “What problems need addressing? Let’s start with long waiting lists. We have 5,000 households on our current wait list. These are households who are local to the South Coast of Santa Barbara County — seniors, low-income workers, and disabled individuals, many of whom are homeless.
“We need more housing and we need funding sources to support that needed housing. We need community and political will to support this needed housing.”
Despite future challenges, HACSB’s 50 years of achievements include delivering affordable housing that improves the lives of residents; establishing strong partnerships with the city and other nonprofit groups; and earning the community’s respect and goodwill by building beautiful homes with strong operational management.
Fredericks attributes his organization’s success to the creative spirit of his team, partners and constituents. “We are an award-winning organization because we are innovative. We look at ways to get developments done, and we do it for the betterment of the community.”
Since 1969, HACSB has developed and/or secured more than 3,400 units of affordable rental housing for Santa Barbara through a variety of federal, state, local and private funding sources. For more, visit www.hacsb.org.
— Sarah Ettman, WaveComm SB for HACSB.