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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on October 21st, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 34 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 34

Lompoc City Council member receives funds from city homebuyers loan program

By RON FINK

 I have been following Lompoc politics for about 30 years; anytime an elected official had a monetary interest or conducted business with the city, he/she would always recuse themselves from any discussion pertaining to their business interest.

I have also been following City Council meetings closely for the last six years; Councilman Victor Vega hasn’t expressed a lot of interest in most items that come before the council. For example, the key issue in the district he represents is public safety; most of the violent crime in the city occurs in the area he represents. But he hasn’t been demanding more police patrols, reinstatement of gang/drug units, or even actively supporting recent discussions concerning the purchase of new fire equipment or police body cameras.

People run for office to serve their communities, however some feel that helping themselves is part of the deal. Councilman Vega has expressed continued interest in the Homebuyers Assistance Program since he was elected to the City Council. Most would say that helping first-time low- to medium-income homebuyers is a commendable goal; but there is more to this story.

The Lompoc Homebuyer Assistance Program guidebook explains that the program is designed to “expand homeownership opportunities in the community of Lompoc. The program helps bridge the homeownership affordability gap for local residents by providing 30-year deferred payment loans of up to $65,000 per household to assist first-time lower income homebuyers in purchasing a home in the city.”

When this program was first discussed, some asked if Vega, who is a real estate agent, should recuse himself from the discussion because he could gain financially when this program was implemented; the city attorney determined that since the program was open to “anyone,” he was not getting any benefit that any citizen couldn’t get.

This program has had only 22 applications, and of those only 11 loans/grants were funded, according to the city manager’s report on Oct. 9, 2020. A total of $658,395, or about $60,000 per applicant, has been used so far.

Vega is the broker of record for some of those loans, and even though this program is “open to anyone,” he has a leg up on the competition. For example, from his chair on the council dais on May 1, 2018, the meeting minutes reflect that “Councilmember Vega requested the funding (of the Homebuyers Assistance Program) be revised to increase the closing cost grants.”  

Then on May 7, 2019, Vega requested “a report on renewing the funding for the city’s first-time homebuyer assistance program.” So, he appears to have been protecting his bottom line, something that “anyone” couldn’t do unless they were sitting in his council seat.

He has also used his access to City Hall during the current closures due to COVID-19 to ask staff if specific loans had been approved and/or when they would be approved. Once again, “everyone” doesn’t have this in-person access, and it seems that he is using his elected position for his own personal benefit.

When he openly encourages the council to provide additional resources for closing fees from the in-lieu fund, it seems somewhat questionable what his motives really are: Is he trying to help people buy homes, or is he lining his own pockets with program cash? 

While this may not be technically “illegal,” this sure looks a lot like a conflict of interest on his part.

Victor Vega is running for the mayor’s seat; we have to wonder what he will come up with next to line his pockets with public funds.

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send your thoughts, comments, and opinionated letters to letters@santamariasun.com.










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