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Tenant shares how moving to new below-market studio apartment in Santa Barbara changed his life

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Julio Ricon is grateful to be among the first tenants living at a new housing complex in downtown Santa Barbara.

"It's great I don't have to rely on a vehicle to get around ... most of the time I can just bike to work," said Ricon.

Located at 821 State Street, Ricon has been living in his below-market studio apartment complex since it’s opening in November 2023.

"Because the Farmer's Market is next to me Marshalls is next to me everything I said I need is really close by don’t really have to go far to get what I need and what I want," Ricon said.

But before his move, Ricon was living paycheck to paycheck. 

"Like every every paycheck was either like going towards rent and your utilities haven’t split the bills with everybody else and then also just acquire all the other stuff like a laundry detergent. Yeah, just clean supplies and stuff like that," said Ricon.

Prpoerty manager Sami Heggen Wilcox says thousands of applicants were submitted for these units. 

"We are fully leased every unit has a person … and for the most part everyone is really happy and really grateful for having this opportunity on State Street," Sami said.

Rent rates are set according to tenant’s income, with three units available for low-income renters at $965 a month, one unit for moderate-income renters at $1,610 a month, and 10 units for moderate-middle-income earners at $1,850 a month.

"It brings my heart so much joy to like know all of my tenants like all of these units have one to two people in them that now have housing," Sami said.

Tenants like Ricon wish more could have the advantage of an affordable place to live.

"I’m happy I really have a place here, but it’s unfortunately there are others wondering if they’re going to get that same opportunity that I have.," Ricon said.

The City of Santa Barbara Housing Authority hopes to pursue more creative solutions like the conversion of unused commercial spaces to house the local workforce.

The project was made possible by a collaboration of the Housing Authority, city staff and property owner Jason Yardi — director of the philanthropic organization the Yardi Foundation.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
Santa Barbara

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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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