City Council approves loans for affordable housing complex
The Santa Barbara City Council approved City Fire Chief Chris Mailes’s proposal to join a regional fire communications facility during its weekly meeting Tuesday.
The six council members in attendance justified the dispatch center’s $800,000 annual price tag by considering the benefit of teaming up with neighboring departments.
The communications facility will be equipped by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. The Santa Maria Fire Department, Montecito Fire Protection District and the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District have committed to join.
Chief Mailes expects that the Lompoc City Fire Department will also join the agreement.
The actual cost to the City varies from $756,216 to $790,000, dependent upon Lompoc’s participation for the lower cost.
Additional expenses could be added if a “redundant dispatch center” is built in Santa Maria to give a secondary location in case of emergency.
Chief Mailes was a dispatcher during the Paint Fire and was evacuated from the dispatch center during the fire.
The primary dispatch center will be at Santa Barbara County Fire headquarters off Cathedral Oaks in unincorporated Santa Barbara.
Chief Mailes said the city gains three neighboring fire stations by joining the agreement. He anticipates stations just outside the boundaries will be assisting inside Santa Barbara more often.
“We’re going to stop worrying about whose jurisdiction we’re in,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to the person calling 911.”
The dispatch software determines what resources are closest and will send out the nearest engines.
Previously, departments would call others to get aid. The combined facility will eliminate the step, which is valuable in situations like cardiac arrest or structure fire.
Departments will also be able to see where they may need to cover for others whose resources are strained.
The facility won’t be functioning until January 2024, and the county isn’t asking for payment until that time.
The two possible payment methods are the general fund and Measure C. Mayor Cathy Murillo motioned to have the Finance Committee look for budgetary solutions.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council approved a plan to issue loans to homeowners in the El Zoco condominium complex.
The complex is seeking help repairing water damage to a unit, which is now unoccupied, and common spaces.
The complex was developed with an affordable housing covenant. A few units are within a few years of being free to sell to the open market, but accepting a loan would enforce a 90-year affordability covenant.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of developing affordable housing in our community, and that is certainly true. But it’s also important that we take the time to maintain the affordable housing that we currently have to maintain it as affordable and to maintain it as livable,” Councilmember Meagan Harmon said.
The city will loan residents making under 200% of the area median’s income up to $36,000 at 3% simple interest, amortized over 30 years. The maximum cost to the city is $200,000.
Santa Barbara County will likely match the city’s investment of $200,000, said Laura Dubbels, Housing and Human Services Manager.
The Housing Trust Fund offers $200,000 if repairs extend beyond $400,000, and Habitat for Humanity will extend $50,000 in grants among the low-income homeowners.
The assistance also replenishes the El Zoco homeowner’s association reserves so the complex can continue to function.
Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez was absent during the meeting.