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Santa Maria affordable housing project gets green light

The Santa Maria City Council has given initial approval for a new affordable housing project on North Depot Street near the intersection with West Main Street.

The proposed Residences at Depot Street project would convert a former industrial site into an 80-unit residential complex of low to very low income rental apartments subsidized and administered by the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County.

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“Everybody deserves decent, safe, sanitary housing”, project proponent Lisa Plowman told the City Council Tuesday night, “that is critical to physical and emotional health and productivity and self-esteem for the people that it serves.”

The City Council unanimously approved the first reading of a zoning change required for the Depot Street project to move forward with Mayor Alice Patino recusing herself from listening to or voting on the project.

Demand for affordable, subsidized housing in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County far exceeds supply.

The City Council was told the waiting list for subsidized Housing Authority units in the county is well over 5,000 people and growing.

“It took me years to get safe, affordable housing”, Cathie Ortiz told the council, “my story is not unusual, this is happening every day in our community.”

“Without public housing, I would pay on the average about 80 percent of my income just for my rent”, said Patricia Faulkner, “that would leave me to become homeless because it did.”

Noone spoke against the project during the brief presentation to the City Council.

Santa Maria is supporting and pursuing infill development of vacant lots in the city’s urban core whether it be mixed-use commercial-residential, market rate owner-occupied, rentals, or low-income, affordable and subsidized housing projects.

Recent examples include the Hancock Terrance apartments on Boone Street next to the Transit Center.

“This site is perfect for that type of development”, Plowman told the council, “its infill, its surrounded by residential uses, there’s a market to the south, its really an ideal spot for new housing.”

The Residences at Depot Street project will come back to the City Council for a second reading and final approval.

Without any delay or opposition, construction is expected to begin early next year.

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