Santa Barbara County Regional Housing Needs

High housing costs mean a loss of young families and middle-income workers, as well as a growing population of urban poor, elderly, disabled, and homeless persons living in overcrowded housing conditions.

For example, in 1983 the median priced home in South County was 4 times the median family income, but in 2014 the median home price was 16 times the median income, leading to a large “affordability gap” — the differential between current median home sales prices and the price that families can reasonably afford.

Our 2020 Area Median Income of $87,800 is significantly lower than other California high cost coastal housing areas such as San Francisco ($143,100) and Ventura County ($97,800) (State HCD). Since we have comparable housing costs, we experience a greater affordability gap.

Lack of affordable housing in our region also contributes to commuting, as local workers seek more affordable housing in other regional markets. For example, from 2000 to 2016, the number of commuters from Ventura County increased by 47% (SBCAG RHA, 2020). Additionally, there was an addition of 3,500 new net in-commuters into Santa Barbara County from 2010 to 2015 alone (Longitudinal Employment Housing Dynamics, 2015). Overall, 3% of Ventura County’s workers and 5% of San Luis Obispo County’s workers commute into Santa Barbara County daily (SBCAG RHA, 2020).

It is clear that workers cannot afford to live in the community where they work. As workers are being priced out of the communities they serve, problems of community sustainability and declining intergenerational ties arise, as younger generations cannot afford to stay in the local community.

However, the ability for working families and individuals to live in the community where they work is crucial in creating a strong foundation for family connectivity, increased quality of life, and economically healthy and vibrant communities. When people can reside near work, commute time is minimized and proximity to social networks is increased. This contributes greatly to the development of strong families in which parents can be more present in their children’s lives and more active within their communities.  The possibility of this prospect is largely dependent largely on the availability and accessibility of affordable housing in the region.


Home Owners

Santa Barbara County remains the 6th least affordable small metropolitan area housing market in the nation, and in third quarter 2014 Santa Barbara County was the least affordable region in the State of California. Only 14% of county households could afford to purchase the median priced single family home compared to 30% statewide, based on the traditional Housing Affordability Index (CAR).

The September 2014 countywide median single-family home sales price was $778,230 compared to $460,940 statewide (CAR) and $1,199,500 in South County (SBCAOR MLS), well beyond the purchasing ability of the majority of working families.

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Santa Barbara also ranked 3rd among all 58 California counties for having the most severe cost burden for renters. The hourly wage needed to meet the Fair Market Rent is $25.85 per hour, however the estimated hourly wage of Santa Barbara County renters is only $15.07 per hour.

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Farm Workers

Santa Barbara County has a large farm-worker population with disproportionate numbers living in the poorest housing conditions due to low wages, high migration rates, and high local housing costs. This is especially true in Santa Barbara’s North County.

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