Regional IX Administrator John Pu tours housing authority sites
The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara hosted federal officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development Wednesday for a tour of several of the local agency’s development sites.
The tour — which included, among others, the El Carrillo, Johnson Court, Vera Cruz Village and Pescadero Lofts developments — drew strong praise from HUD’s Region IX administrator, John Pu, who applauded the Housing Authority’s work in creating public housing that “anybody would be proud to live in and anybody would be happy to live next to.”
“What we’ve seen is local collaboration that is creating projects to help house the homeless, provide wraparound services, and to address housing affordability needs in a way that blends seamlessly into the neighborhoods and communities that in which they’re built,” Mr. Pu said of his visit to South County. “I think that the best practices that I’ve taken away from the local community here are definitely about how these projects are seamlessly integrated into their neighborhoods, and how collaboration among the public housing authorities, the city and the county are able to weave and braid resources together to solve these complex issues.”
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal further touched on Mr. Pu’s observation of the contemporary projects’ emphasis on design and harmony with local neighborhoods, which he contrasted from his own experiences as a past beneficiary of public housing.
“I know first hand what these public programs do for families,” Rep. Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, said. “My father was a farm worker, and we had challenges getting by, which led us to moving into public housing. The public housing that exists today is much different, and it’s the type of model that we need.
“Back in the day, (the public housing that was produced then) was essential for the time, but it also created some challenges, which created a lot of resistance by communities because we created projects that didn’t have the type of architectural rendering and the type of wraparound services that these programs have today,” Rep. Carbajal said. “So I want to make that distinction and point out that it’s a huge success for this region in the approach that they’ve taken for affordable housing.”
This pushback to public and affordable housing by locals that the congressman mentioned was a strong theme in Santa Barbara County 1st District Supervisor Das Williams’ remarks.
Mr. Williams said negative responses to developing these types of housing projects ran contrary to the values that Santa Barbara residents seek to espouse.
“It creates a situation that challenges our values where the prices of rentals and the prices of housing are chasing out our young, and we’re becoming less diverse in many parts of our community,” Supervisor Williams said. “And we are also destroying the environment because we’re pushing people to commute farther and farther away from their businesses and their jobs.
“If we are truly environmentalists, truly want diversity and truly want a place where workers are welcome, we need to embrace housing production that’s consistent with those values,” he continued.
Also in attendance was Goleta City Council Member James Kyriaco, who noted the interconnected nature of Santa Barbara and Goleta’s housing markets and applauded the city’s work in providing housing for low-income and homeless populations.
“Every time the city of Santa Barbara and the county of Santa Barbara step up on housing, that’s good for Goleta,” Councilmember Kyriaco said. “Every time Goleta steps up on housing, like we’ve done with building 1,300 units recently, that’s good for the region. We need a diversity of housing options if we want to maintain and become a more diverse community, and that diversity should extend to all different types of price points.”
In addition to thanking both federal and local partners for their assistance with building up Santa Barbara’s stock of affordable housing and developments for homeless populations, Housing Authority Executive Director and CEO Rob Fredericks stated in strong terms that the local agency would continue their work “until everybody in Santa Barbara has the housing that they need.”
“My team and I at the housing authority — we’re what we call ‘relentless housers,’” Mr. Fredericks said. “We are not going to stop. We are going to push forward with whatever we can to provide the housing that’s necessary.”