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Filling the need for local affordable housing - Santa Maria Times

Filling the need for local affordable housing - Santa Maria Times

With perhaps the lowest vacancy rates in the past 30 years, 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 for retirement.

High price tags make owning available housing out of the question for most, and rents for three-bedroom apartments are soaring.

Workers are forced to commute long distances, with 30,000 people commuting to and from the South Coast each day, clogging our freeways, reducing the time parents/caregivers can spend with their families.
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 need for affordable housing. Back then, the situation was nowhere near the epic proportions of today. As the need has ballooned, Peoples’ expanded from San Luis Obispo County and then to Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. In that time, we've helped more than 1,200 families build their own homes, and developed nearly 1,600 affordable rental units in 30 local communities.

We recognized that with stable housing comes other community benefits, including a better chance for at-risk children to make it in schools. Researchers have found that having a regular place to call home leads to improved academic performance. Frequent bouncing between different housing situations a family can afford, switching schools and having lapses in education makes keeping up in school far more difficult.

Students and families without access to proper housing 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 the health costs for everyone.

The health and cost 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 taxpayers.

For example, Los Angeles County, within a year of beginning a recent pilot program to house the chronically homeless, had reduced expenditures on incarceration and medical services by $1.2 million. The county expected the program to save $2.08 million in service costs its second year.
Preserving, rehabilitating or building a new affordable-housing project 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, but also 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

John Fowler is president/CEO of Peoples’ Self-Help Housing.