After the first round of rental assistance program funds was depleted in three days, the Santa Barbara City Council approved continuing to use Community Development Block Grant funds for COVID-19 rental assistance.
In the virtual meeting on Tuesday, city staff shared that 82 households were assisted in those three days, and more than 350 households requested assistance.
City staff deemed additional funds necessary “due to enormous demand.”
With the $1,012,243 allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, $20,000 will be going to administration, $57,265 will be going toward United Way’s program delivery costs (case management, application processing and grant reporting) and the remaining $954,978 will go directly toward rental assistance.
“The highest and best use of our opportunities to spread out this funding is to directly support our neighbors,” said Council member Meagan Harmon. “We do have an opportunity to really serve them directly, to put money directly in their pockets…I can’t imagine a better thing for us to do with this money.”
The council also requested that the case managers ensure to prioritize those who were left pending after the first round. The case managers look at the households that are most vulnerable as well.
The assistance is also limited to three months or by set dollar amount.
“The three months will allow us to serve the greatest number of families and individuals and prioritize those who weren’t able to receive the assistance last time,” said Council member Eric Friedman.
In other news, the council established the requested Human Services funding commitment of $726,150.
City staff identified the eligibility and criteria for funding, including: low/moderate income residents; social/physical needs; proposed marketing strategy; support from clients; identify funding sources; reasonable administrative costs; identify service areas; and local minimum wage.
The Human Services staff will evaluate agency performance, board engagement, program impact, measurable outcomes, need in the community, financial sustainability and capital which includes project description, need and cost.
The funding percentage for program categories for FY ‘20 and FY ‘21 included: 4% for child, 14% for disability/health/medical, 12% for emergency, 9% for food, 36% for homeless, 6% for other, 7% for senior and 13% for youth.
Council member Mike Jordan addressed the need for funding programs to get homeless individuals off the streets.
“I am much more interested, when we look at this list next year, of the suggestions in items that change the trajectory of people’s lives rather than just sustain the status quo,” he said. “That was exactly my concern with what the homeless category is made up of and what part of that might just be meeting basic human needs like food, but is not targeting, as a priority, getting the service and the housing to the people on the street and getting them off the street.
“The priority on that homeless category should be to look for where we can get our largest return on actual improvements on the situation rather than trying to spread ourselves out and feel a little bit of good here and a little bit of good there,” he said.
Ms. Harmon said she hesitates with “laser-focusing” on the homeless population.
“We are letting so many more people that rely on these other services fall through the cracks,” she said. “I just worry that in practice right now, this year in particular, it won’t have the desired effect and put a lot more people at risk when there are so many more of us that are right on the edge and that are going to rely on greater breadth of the services in our community more than ever before.”
Finally, the city council approved the staff recommendation to make amendments to the city’s Zoning Ordinance in order to be consistent with the new state law changes, for both accessory dwelling units and the Coastal Zoning ordinance.
However, they asked the Legislative Committee to consider the following: including ADU regulations regarding high fire and extreme high fire hazard zones, facilitating mixed-use conversions in commercial areas to maximize housing units within those conversions, implementing informative and clear signs and maintaining consistency with state law regarding owner-occupancy requirements with an evaluation in five years.
“I see an opportunity in mixed-use properties,” said Mayor Cathy Murillo. “The reality of commercial real estate has changed and putting housing in those opportunity sites would be wonderful.”
Finally, the council conducted interviews for city advisory groups.