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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 11th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 27 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 27

Poverty study shows a need for reallocation of Santa Barbara county's resources

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

The results of a Santa Barbara County-sponsored study on poverty reveal that access to social services, health care, affordable housing, and public transportation are some of the major barriers to people living in high-poverty areas.

Officials from the county’s Department of Social Services gave a presentation on the study, called “A Snapshot of Poverty in Santa Barbara County,” to the Board of Supervisors during its Sept. 10 meeting.

Although the county isn’t set just yet to move full-steam ahead with alleviating some of the barriers, results of the study show that one focus area could be reallocating some resources from the southern part of the county to the north.

During the meeting, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino expressed some concern about the accuracy of the data in the report. He said he felt the poverty statistics for Cuyama and Guadalupe should be higher than stated in the report. The supervisors briefly discussed the possibility of not accepting and filing the report, but did not come to a decision as of press time.

The cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Isla Vista contain high-poverty areas in which 20 percent of the residents are living below federal poverty thresholds. It’s estimated that of the more than 400,000 people who reside in Santa Barbara County, about 57,000 residents live below the poverty threshold.

In 2010, the federal poverty threshold was $11,369 for a single adult and $22,162 for a household of two adults and two children. The study found that the county’s median household income is $60,078, or 27 to 57 percent higher than the median income in high-poverty areas.

The study points out many unmet needs in Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Guadalupe, such as access to affordable housing. Half of the county’s public housing units and Section 8 vouchers are in South County, where 34 percent of the families in poverty live. The north and mid-county regions show the greatest disparity between the amount of public housing units and Section 8 vouchers distributed by the county.

Bill Shipsey, a planner with the city of Santa Maria, said there are some affordable housing units in the development hopper waiting for permitting from the city. He added that Santa Maria depends on the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County, while the city of Santa Barbara has its own housing authority.

Shipsey added that moving some housing resources around to give more attention to the northern part of the county would help tremendously.

“That would be great,” he said.

Other recommended areas of focus pointed out in the report include addressing workforce development and public transportation needs, expanding the outreach of CalFresh food stamps, creating local tax-credit programs, establishing poverty-reduction goals, and improving the efficiency of social services.