Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 18
Living CreeksideThe county housing authority opens a low-income apartment complex for ag workers
BY AMY ASMAN
A cool summer breeze rolls in from the west, carrying with it the distinctive cry of a rooster. A woman pushes her infant in a stroller. A young girl slips her way down the slide of a community jungle gym.
Welcome to Creekside Village, the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County’s newest low-income housing project. Located on St. Joseph Street in Los Alamos, the development was designed with the county’s ag worker population in mind.
John Polanskey, the housing authority’s director of housing development, said plans for Creekside Village started 16 years ago.
“One of the first meetings I went to when I started 16 years ago was in Santa Maria with a bunch of ag employers and officials,” Polanskey said. “They were all saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had ag worker rental housing?’”
Housing was and continues to be a concern because many farm workers commute long distances to their jobs or double or triple up in houses with other families, Polanskey said.
The Creekside project was approved in 2001 and is now in the final stages of development. The housing authority just received the certificates of occupancy for the final five buildings, and people have already started moving in.
The $18 million project is funded primarily by federal and local funds and a grant from the Joe Serna Jr. Farm Worker Program, which requires that preference for housing be given to someone who works in the ag industry.
“At least one person in the house has to work fulltime in the ag field, and that can include vineyards, ranches, and traditional farms,” Polanskey said.
An additional requirement is that someone in the household must be a documented citizen.
“It can be the children,” Polanskey said. But if that’s the case, the government subsidies can only go toward the care of the documented individual, which means the family pays higher rental fees.
“A lot of people are worried that tax dollars are going toward undocumented immigrants. That’s a concern I get at most public meetings I go to,” Polanskey said.
Another worry he hears is that having a low-income unit in a neighborhood will bring down property values.
“It’s been proven that well-built and well-managed low-income housing does nothing to damage the property values,” he countered.
In fact, he explained, such projects can often help break the cycle of poverty. Residents at Creekside Village get access to a variety of support services, such as English classes, computer lab training, and financial literacy classes.
The housing authority also makes an effort to keep dollars from construction costs local.
“We’re concerned about local unemployed contractors, so we tried to get as many local subcontractors as possible,” Polanskey said. “Our goal is to provide as much economic benefit to the county as we can. It’s a win-win.”
The housing authority is still looking for some ag worker families to apply for housing. However, the complex is also open to low-income families who don’t have a connection to the ag industry.
There are 39 two-, three-, and four-bedroom townhouses in the complex, which are divvied out based on the size of the family and the order in which people apply.
The complex also has a community room, a laundry room, a playground, and a creekside trail for recreation.
“The place is beautiful, the complex is beautiful, and the small town is very friendly. We’ve enjoyed our move to Los Alamos,” said Teresa Barron, the complex’s onsite manager and a housing authority employee.
Barron moved from the Goleta area to manage the site with her husband. They’re responsible for handling all the application paperwork and dealing with any property issues that might arise.
“We’re in charge of parking, making sure there aren’t any leaks, and welcoming new tenants. We’re also going to be doing some onsite cleaning to make sure everything is clean and safe for our families,” she said.
Contact Managing Editor Amy Asman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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