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Santa Barbara School District Looks to Partner with Housing Authority to Build Apartments for Employees

Board directs staff to work on a development project for district-owned land on the Eastside

Rob Fredericks, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.
Rob Fredericks, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, is excited to partner with the Santa Barbara Unified School District for an apartment project on the Eastside. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is looking to partner with the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara to build up to 45 apartments on land the district owns on the Eastside.

The apartments are proposed for 915 E. Montecito St. and would be for school district employees only.

“We do housing, and that’s what we do well,” said Rob Fredericks, executive director of the Housing Authority.

The district on Tuesday night gave direction with staff to work on a project for that site. The district would own the apartments, but the Housing Authority would act as the developer and property manager on the project.

About 28.5% of district employees are considered very low income and another 28.5% are considered low income, according to a survey of district employees.

Overall, about 63% of the employee households are in very low-, low- or moderate-income households, which means they make less than 120% of the area median income, which is about $101,000.

The Housing Authority and the district are focusing on employees in those categories for the housing.

Board president Wendy Sims-Moten said at the meeting that the district initially purchased the property in anticipation of a school site. Enrollment, however, is declining.

“The need has changed,” Sims-Moten said. “Now, we are reimagining the property to meet the need of today.”

The step the district is taking, Sims-Moten said, also acknowledges what employees have said for years about the cost of living in Santa Barbara.

“We know we can’t do this alone,” Sims-Moten said. “You are doing what you do, and we’re doing best what we can do. We can’t ask for more, but we need to continue to reimagine and take leadership.”

The Housing Authority presented bleak statistics about the local rental situation.

The median rent in Santa Barbara in October 2022 was 41% higher than it was in March 2022, according to the Housing Authority, which cited numbers from the UCSB Economic Forecast Project.

Hilda Maldonado, superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Hilda Maldonado, superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, expressed support for the housing plan, saying it “has come through lots of work.” (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The average monthly costs for a family of four is about $6,000, without rent factored in, according to The Housing Authority said Santa Barbara is 12.6% more expensive than New York, citing statistics.

The district has identified other sites for potential housing. They include McKinley ElementaryMonroe Elementary SchoolSanta Barbara High SchoolSanta Barbara Junior High and La Cumbre Junior High, suggesting possibly on “excess land.”

Superintendent Hilda Maldonado expressed support for the plan at the meeting.

“This has been months and months of work,” Maldonado said. “This has come through lots of work.”