2015 In the News

Opening the door on affordable housing - The Tribune

Opening the door on affordable housing - The Tribune

BY JOHN FOWLER
January 6, 2015

With perhaps the lowest vacancy rates in the past 30 years — and with one of the lowest rates in the country — the Central Coast has a housing crisis that impacts not just those in lower income brackets, but all of us. The lack of housing, whether it’s “affordable” or not, means sky-high rents and even higher home prices; households having to “double or triple up”; increased homelessness; families living in cars; and seniors not being able to afford housing upon retirement.

Big price tags make owning what housing is available out of the question for most, and rents for three bedroom apartments have reached $3,000 a month.

Workers are therefore forced to commute long distances, with more than 15,000 workers commuting between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties each day. This clogs our freeways and reduces the time parents and caregivers can spend with their families. Also, household incomes are being spent in communities outside of the area where workers are employed.

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing (PSHH) was formed in 1970 to address the serious need for affordable housing. Back then, while the situation was serious, it was nowhere near the epic proportions of today. As the need has ballooned, Peoples’ expanded from San Luis Obispo County to Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. In that time, we’ve helped more than 1,200 families build their very own homes and developed nearly 1,600 affordable rental units in 30 local communities.

Along the way, we recognized that stable housing brings other community benefits, including a better chance for children at risk of dropping out to make it in school. Researchers have found that simply having a regular place to call home leads to improved academic performance. Students and families without access to proper housing also are more likely to be exposed to unsanitary and unhealthy conditions and have poorer health outcomes. With these increased risk factors, illnesses spread to our schools and workplaces and elevate health costs for everyone.

The benefits of providing affordable housing go well beyond PSHH properties and can be felt by residents throughout the Central Coast, with reduced costs for city and county governments (and the taxpayers!). As an example, within a year of beginning a recent pilot program to house the chronically homeless, Los Angeles County had reduced expenditures on incarceration and medical services by $1.2 million. The county expected the program to save more than $2 million in its second year.

Preserving, rehabilitating or building a new affordable housing project in itself will also go a long way for a local economy. A Minnesota study concluded that $260.6 million invested into affordable housing construction and rehabilitation helped support nearly 11,000 jobs across the state. PSHH alone has $315 million in residential assets on the Central Coast, many of which started out as distressed buildings, trailer parks and apartment buildings before we rehabilitated and converted them to affordable housing. This approach has not only brought more affordable housing opportunities to the Central Coast, it also has increased the community’s natural beauty without creating additional demands on our water supply.

With the critical need for affordable housing in the tri-counties and the proven benefits for everyone, we remain committed to providing additional safe, affordable housing in years to come.

If you are interested in learning more about our work or helping this effort, visit http://www.PSHHC.org.

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