On July 10th, 2019, we enjoyed the company of over 100 Santa Barbara community members and four key panelists at the Global Citizens Club meeting on Housing Solutions for a Vibrant Santa Barbara. As part of the 2019 conference series, this meeting focused on the pressing topic of housing in Santa Barbara, specifically on the question of how to compensate for the housing shortage and the aging population.
The turnout at this event once again exhibited the passion and genuine care for the community held by the engaged audience who brought up themes of millennial housing, project affordability, and policy allowances. The panelists and attendees alike brought innovative topics and solutions to the discussion, sparking forward-thinking solutions for the beautiful, lively potential that the future of Santa Barbara holds.
With the sunsetting over the beautiful Belmond El Encanto Hotel, the conference on housing solutions began after an introductory meet and greet. The World Business Academy’s Chief of Staff Kristy Jansen kicked off the event with introductions and acknowledgments. Next, the Academy’s President and Founder Rinaldo Brutoco led the discussion by posing the following question: how does Santa Barbara address the problem of increasing housing costs and an increasing population? Four dedicated experts were there to offer creative and innovative solutions to the growing problem: Jason Dominguez, Lucrezia DeLeon, Matt Turner, and Rob Fredericks.
First to the podium was Jason Dominguez, District 1 Councilmember. He spoke heavily on the side of the builders, paying attention to developers and affordability. He also noted the economics behind housing, as Santa Barbara’s working class is getting pushed out by the high costs of living. He ended with emphasis on the necessity of “raising the incomes of locals” to allow Santa Barbara to flourish. All of these aspects are essential in addressing the influx of citizens and the proper action to take to create affordable housing.
Lucrezia DeLeon followed with her architectural expertise. She approached the crises behind housing in Santa Barbara with data and factually-based optimism, even on topics of homelessness. She advocated for a housing-first approach to mitigate problems in the area. What is important in this battle against a housing crisis is believing in the possibility of moving forward and believing in the experts to make the future possible.
Up next was Matt Turner, co-founder of Hustlers for Humanity. Turner’s take on housing solutions for millennials sparked great conversation in the room. He noted that millennials, one of the fastest growing groups in the area, are willing to live in smaller spaces with less amenities, such as parking. The main selling point of millennials is ease and accessibility of transportation. He also brought up the point of the influx of nearly 300 Amazon employees to town in the near future. Millennials want to experience the vibrant community of Santa Barbara, and Turner wants to make that possible with new solutions.
Rob Fredericks, CEO of Housing Authority of Santa Barbara was the fourth and final panelist at the event. Fredericks noted the AUD high-density program and the increasing cost of land, which makes it difficult to create affordable housing. The Housing Authority’s overall mission is to create “safe, affordable, and quality housing opportunities,” all while contributing to the prosperity of Santa Barbara.
Following the panelists, the conference room at the El Encanto became a place of open debate and conversation. Accomplished community members brought up complex and absolutely necessary questions which the panelists collectively answered. While there are many areas to be smoothed out for these solutions to progress, this event was a great starting point. It showed that housing is in fact complex and has not one, but many feasible solutions to become adequate and sustainable. With government officials, architects, nonprofits, businesses, and the general public working together, the future of Santa Barbara will house many, young and old, and be bustling with the color, liveliness, and beauty that we know it has.