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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 41 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 41

Local nonprofit casts light on renters plight

By William D'Urso

A regional advocacy group released a report Dec. 10 painting a stark picture for renters in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. 

In the report, the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) showed that flattening wages and increasing rents are putting strain on renters.

The report said that renters make up 51 percent of the population in Santa Barbara County.

“Renters tend to have significantly lower voter turnout due to barriers like moving more frequently,” the report said. “Renters tend to spend a far greater share of their income on housing than homeowners.”

The nonprofit went door to door last summer, covering 590 renters in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Santa Paula, and Oxnard.

These renters, who had a median income of $53,000 in Santa Barbara County, have, according to the report, suffered from wage stagnation. The CAUSE report said that median income for a family of four in Santa Barbara County is $63,700.

The report blamed worsening housing security on a lack of growth in high-wage jobs, and it charted the cost increases of a one-bedroom apartment.

In 2011, a one-bedroom apartment could run about $800 in Santa Maria. The CAUSE report said that same apartment would now cost more than $1,400.

CAUSE pointed to a steep increase in renters, driven by millennials, as a factor in the tightening rental market. But it also pointed to a shortage in new housing, particularly for low-income families, and the region’s failure to adequately keep up with demand. 

Part of the problem is that too many already built homes are empty. The report contends that there are more “empty units”—26,000 in 2017—than homeless people.

The report offered some incremental solutions that local municipalities could try. It pointed to a “rental mediation program” in the city of Santa Barbara. It allows tenants to discuss issues with landlords in a professional, mediated setting. The city also recently put a “mandatory lease law” in place, requiring landlords to offer a year-long lease.

In addition, CAUSE suggested that local municipalities consider setting aside legal funds for some renters. Those renters, who may be at risk of losing their home due to low wages or rent hikes, would have an opportunity to seek legal counsel, an attempt to even the balance of power between residents and landlords.









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