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Economy

SB city leaders discuss setting new standards to fuel affordable housing

SB Housing
Ryan Fish/KEYT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With a dearth of affordable housing options in Santa Barbara, City Council and the city's Planning Commission considered different solutions during a special meeting Thursday.

Those solutions will be final amendments to the city's Average Unit Size Density Incentive (AUD) Program, which began in 2013 and is set to expire in August 2021. The trial program has created affordable housing in the city, but much more is needed. The final amendments are expected to provide long-term multi-unit housing zone standards.

Housing is needed citywide but the focus is currently downtown, where people can live closer to jobs and services, potentially eliminating the need for more cars on the road. Downtown also provides the city with multiple building types and the possibility to build higher-density housing.

One of the new amendments discussed Thursday would establish three Floor-to-lot Ratio tiers, placing affordable housing in the largest buildings.

If developers can incorporate affordable housing or other housing that benefits the community into the plans, they could also begin constructing taller buildings, up to the city's 60-foot maximum.

“Say for example, that there’s willingness to have a fourth story to some of these buildings,” said City Planner Renee Brooke. “If that can make it economically feasible to maybe get 20 percent of the units affordable to low and moderate income households.

Currently, new buildings cannot exceed 45 feet, or 48 feet in the Central Business District.

Leaders also plan to incentivize more small studio units (around 200 square feet each), known as "micro-units."

The city may also look to get creative. Empty commercial and office buildings could be converted to residential spaces.

“We might not have to demolish buildings. but we could repurpose them, too,” Brooke said. “We need that 24/7 vitality downtown to really reinvigorate the economy down there.”

Brooke also says "under-utlized sites" like surface parking lots could become sites for three or four-story housing buildings. The parking lot behind the former State Street Staples store is already being planned as a future housing site.

"We're not likely to see everything re-developed and completely changed downtown. But we'll fit in here, nooks and crannies, some housing that we really need downtown."

The city also plans to incentivize adding solar panels on top of some of the buildings.

The amendments are pending discussions with the public, Historic Landmarks Commission and others.

If the changes are made official, they likely won't be made official until next summer.

House & Home / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara - South County

Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster at KEYT|KCOY|KKFX.

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