Friday, August 12 2022

When the housing crisis task force was created on April 19, it was the Santa Barbara City Council’s compromise in a contentious seven-hour meeting that was set to end with a vote on a proposed rent cap of 2%, but which resulted instead in formation. of a three-person committee tasked with looking in depth at how to deal with rising rents and the lack of housing in the city.

At the April 19 meeting — which coincided with another burning issue of city workers demanding higher pay and held in a standing room-only council chamber — dozens of community members, rental advocates, landlords and stakeholders from every corner of the city’s housing world weighed in during public comments. Proponents of the 2% rent cap urged the city council, which was split on the issue, to think about the city’s 60% tenants and vote for the ordinance. Opponents of the rent cap insisted that an ordinance modeled on those of other cities would only hurt Santa Barbara in the long run.

Nine weeks later, the committee has still not met. City staff has set a date for the first ad hoc meeting in mid-July, although city staff said the meetings will not be open to the public and will not be recorded for online streaming.

Council member Oscar Guiterrez, who suggested the ad hoc committee in April, has volunteered to chair the task force, with council members Alejandra Gutierrez and Sneddon joining the group. Laura Dubbels, housing and social services manager, and Elias Isaacson, director of community development, are among the city staff assigned to the committee.

Dubbels said there was no timeline or detailed plan on what exactly the subcommittee would talk about, but that they would look at the 2% rent cap and “any alternatives that would be good for the city. “.

When he first suggested the idea, council member Gutierrez said that when the housing issue is relegated to a single item on a busy city council agenda, council members sometimes don’t than the ability to ask staff a few questions, often receiving short answers that don’t capture the full depth of issues facing tenants and landlords.

“This [committee] is the opportunity where we could process and address each of these ideas on a larger stage, and actually try to find some kind of common ground for this, ”he said. In addition to rent control, community members suggested alternative methods such as vouchers or rental assistance.

A major motivator for an “inside” subcommittee was the insistence of several board members that a proposed $200,000 study by an outside consultant would be a waste of time and money, so that Santa Barbara itself has a deeply involved community with many local advocates. groups and organizations.

That money, he said, could eventually be reallocated “to address some of these issues” those advocates have suggested.

“External consultants always come back to ask us in the city,” added councilor Alejandra Gutierrez. “I think it’s very clear that we have the answers within our community.”

It is unclear at this time whether community organizations or members of the public will have the opportunity to speak or provide input at these ad hoc committee meetings, but City staff hope to have better idea once the first meeting is held.

“Right now it’s a bit open,” Dubbels said.

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