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 February 2021 the median home price was 21 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

As the affordability gap for home ownership increases, more and more individuals and families have been forgoing the dream of home ownership and have turned toward rental housing instead. Currently renters have an even more difficult time in our local housing market.  Santa Barbara ranked 3rd among all 58 California counties for having the most severe cost burden for renters.

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. The City of Santa Maria, which houses 64% of the county’s farm-worker population, or 20,646 workers at peak season, estimates a need for 3,099 units of farm-worker housing (Santa Maria Housing Element, 2015).

Santa Barbara County is the 2nd least affordable small metropolitan housing market in the nation (NAHB/Wells Fargo HOI 2020). The affordability gap between local wages and housing costs affects households across a broad range of socio-economic status. Our low-income Target Population is most vulnerable to high housing costs and faces severe cost burden, overcrowding or substandard living conditions.


Farm Workers



Jennifer McGovern
President and CEO
(805) 685-1949


Yvette Lounsbury
Homebuyer Loan Administrator
(805) 845-3585

© 2021 Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County


Housing Trust Fund
of Santa Barbara County
P. O. Box 60909
Santa Barbara, CA 93160-0909

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