Coastal Housing Coalition Shows South County Housing Cost Crisis

Coastal Housing Coalition report called “Santa Barbara’s Changing Demographics and Housing Trends” addressed housing availability for the strongest economy in the County

Santa Barbara, CA - According to the National Association of Home Builders, Santa Barbara County is the fifth least affordable small metropolitan area housing market in the nation. Despite the recent housing downturn, continued exorbitant housing costs make it almost impossible for most people to buy a home in southern Santa Barbara County. Adding to the problem is the tight rental market and increasing cost of rents. To find affordable places to live, many are forced to commute long distances to and from work. The housing shortage affects the local economy as companies struggle to recruit and retain skilled workers. Commute times also impact families, since parents spend hours each day commuting, rather than spending time with their children. Commuting also affects our civic life, since many workers contribute their volunteer service to the communities where they live, rather than locally.

In 2012, the Coastal Housing Coalition (CHC) sponsored a study to measure the changing demographics and trends. “Santa Barbara’s Changing Demographics and Housing Trends” (June 1, 2012) provided data for all three closely-interconnected sub-regions of the County to better understand the region as a whole. As demonstrated in the Study, the South County has the strongest economy in the County and the highest housing costs. Compared to California and to the nation, the availability of housing is significantly less. Although housing prices dropped significantly from the housing-bubble highs of 2005, housing is still much more expensive in southern Santa Barbara County than in California or the nation. Although the data suggests that a fair percentage of median-income households in the community could afford a median housing cost condominium in 2011-12, the number of such units available is small and the calculation does not attempt to account for down payment requirements or toughened current underwriting standards. In addition, housing prices have been climbing. The jobs/housing balance is tipped to jobs, and the result is in-commuting for jobs and out-migrating for housing.

The Key trends found by the Demographic Study include the following trends:

Key Trend #1: Despite net out-migration, the South Coast’s population is still slowly growing due to native births.

Key Trend #2: The South Coast’s population is aging, increasingly consisting of people who are living longer and staying longer in their homes.

Key Trend #3: The percentage of middle-age households in the South Coast has dramatically decreased in the last decade, resulting in the loss of a key demographic for community health and vitality.

Key Trend #4: The South Coast population is becoming more ethnically diverse.

Key Trend #5: Since 1980, the gap between housing prices and median household income has widened dramatically in South Santa Barbara County, increasing much more here than across the state or nation.

Key Trend #6: While house prices have declined since the mid-2000’s, home affordability for middle-income households remains a challenge.

Key Trend #7: The South Coast rental market has the lowest vacancy rate in years, and rents are high.

Key Trend #8: In the South Coast, homeowners are overwhelmingly in the older age cohorts.

“Clear and current demographic data was necessary to fully understand the impact of the jobs/housing imbalance on our local workforce,” said Lisa Plowman, Board of Directors President 2014. “The lack of available, affordable housing in close proximity to jobs is adversely affecting our region’s economy, environment and civic life, all of which will worsen if we don’t tackle this crucial problem. We are actively seeking support for more research to help address Santa Barbara’s housing situation.”

For more information about the Coastal Housing Coalition or the Santa Barbara Demographic and Housing Trends report, visit Donations can also be made online to support the organization’s continued research.

About the Coastal Housing Coalition

The Coastal Housing Coalition (CHC) and its sister organization, Coastal Housing Partnership are non-profits that are supported by 40 local employers collectively employing more than 35,000 South Coast workers and is dedicated to finding solutions to our region’s housing crisis. CHC periodically conducts primary and secondary research on the state of housing along the South Coast, affordability and inventory trends, demographics, public opinion, as well as patterns in employment, commuting, and other topics. In addition to profiling the nature and extent of the jobs/housing imbalance and its many impacts on the quality of life in the region, the research can also help CHC identify effective and affordable housing solutions that will be attractive to local workers and their families.