Confessions of a Santa Barbara Owner

2000: The American Dream Bubble

After living in five other states, my constant goal of moving to California was achieved in 1990. We paid twice as much for a smaller house than the one we had in Miami, but after a few years we were able to climb the hill. to a homogeneous neighborhood of large lots and very little ability to interact with neighbors. The American Dream was alive and well as we saw the value of our home skyrocket after a few more years. I wasn’t sure if local tenants had the same level of satisfaction since I didn’t know anyone in that category.

After a Ponzi scheme wiped out the life savings of hundreds of local investors, we moved to a smaller house and started buying rental properties in cheaper states. Back then, you could buy a house for $10,000 down, get cash flow positive, and sell for a good profit. When we tried to buy a rental closer to home, it was much more difficult. We’ve seen the downside of being out-of-state landlords as tenants punch holes in walls and remove exterior doors. And we’ve experienced first-hand the difficulty of dealing with tenants, like Ventura’s mother who was hit by the recession through no fault of her own and couldn’t pay the rent. But proceeds from the sale of our Santa Barbara homes in 2001 and 2005 offset those losses.

2010: Santa Barbara recession

Buying a business during a recession, and especially a photo studio that was becoming obsolete, led to six stressful years. But it provided a telling picture of what young employees were going through, compounded by high rents. Several photographers had huge student loan debt (one at 9% interest that required payments of $2,500/month) and even after cutting costs by sharing a room, most had to work two or three jobs at home. times. Our office manager had taken a big pay cut after the State Street fashion company she worked for closed. And when the death of her owner forced her to leave, the search for a replacement and the physical move took a huge toll on her health. We also struggled to hire new photographers who matched the diverse population we served (including people of color and Spanish speakers) because many of the top candidates couldn’t afford to stay in the area.

2021: Our housing crisis — inevitable or fixable?

After my retirement in 2015, I had time to make new friends and learned that I had prejudices against tenants that were born out of my ignorance. It was also clear to the younger members of the family that the American Dream, at least the concept of home ownership, was dead for many in Southern California. I discovered that Santa Barbara has been aging for over three decades and in recent years less diverse. Now that I pay attention, I continue to see more and more young people being excluded from the community.

The most important lesson that changed my perspective occurred when three friends who didn’t know each other were deported a few years ago. All three were well educated and had successful careers, so it became clear that lack of housing stability was (and is) a problem for thousands of our residents. As long as we have a very low vacancy rate, all tenants who are not in government-owned properties or here part-time in a second home risk having to squeeze into a smaller unit, leave the area or become homeless. We have one of the worst housing stability situations in the country with minimal land, popular tourist destinations, a surge in college enrollment without sufficient unit construction, a history of feeling no growth, and more.

The bright spot this year has been the increased recognition that we have a number of housing issues that cannot be ignored. Some residents believe we have to choose between having enough housing to accommodate our current residents and workers Where protect the quality of Santa Barbara. I think it’s important to look at how to do both, but the first and most important question is what might happen if we don’t intentionally commit as a community to improving housing stability for all the world.

2030: Visions for future South Coast housing

As we emerge from COVID-19 with promised government support for more affordable and sustainable housing and the great work of AIA State Street Design teams, we have a unique opportunity to move towards a more sustainable and equitable environment. , healthy and economically viable. Please join me on the League of Women Voters online forum »Housing on the south coast in 2030: what is the situation?on Wednesday, March 17 at noon. Registration is required for this link. Twelve community experts will help us explore the causes of our housing problems and the first steps to moving from visioning to implementing possible solutions.

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