Guadalupe officials appear to be on the verge of approving a 38-unit apartment complex aimed at accommodating local farmworkers.
If a such a project had been proposed for placement in any community on the South Coast, the idea would have fizzled out before reaching a local-government discussion level.
That’s because folks living down there have a special aversion to affordable housing, which is what the proposed Guadalupe Court would bring to the small North County community.
Besides, there aren’t many farmworkers living in South Coast communities.
That’s not being completely fair. In fact, there are a number of South Coast social activists who promote affordable housing, and have been doing so for many years. The problem is that those people are vastly outnumbered by NIMBYs, which stands for “not in my back yard.”
The Guadalupe affordable housing project has been through the official wringer, and is poised for final approval. When completed on a 3-acre lot at 4202 11th St., the $15-million, 38-unit complex will be a mix of two and three-bedroom residential units, a community room and office space.
As the plan now stands, rents will average from $800 to $1,000 a month, depending on the occupants’ household income.
Those dollar figures are key to the project’s success. As of the middle of January, average rent for similar apartments in Santa Maria was nearly $1,500 monthly. Two-bedroom unit averages were more than $1,750.
It doesn’t take a math genius to understand why providing affordable housing to some of the lowest-paid workers in North County is so important.
Guadalupe Court will be a little different because the farmworker-housing designation is a matter of interpretation. The qualification rules stipulate that at least one member of the household be an active, retired or disabled farmworker, with present or past contact in any phase of farm work. That covers a wide range of possibilities, and could result in an apartment complex filled with individuals and families who are not actively involved in a current farm work situation.
Getting to this point in the Guadalupe Court permitting process has been difficult, involving a change of ownership in the property, with a nonprofit agency taking over the project, which undermined the city’s agreed-upon deal with the previous owner on development fees. That snag was ironed out, and the city — which is desperately in need of revenue — will get more than half the agreed-upon sum from the new owners.
Guadalupe City Council members still are concerned about restrictions on the project, and some have expressed the desire to have affordable housing opened to a wider range of applicants.
And this is where just about every affordable-housing proposal hits a wall. Santa Barbara County, in general, is woefully short on affordable housing units.
We have discussed, thought and written about the region’s affordable housing dilemma for years, and we just don’t see a solution that’s going to make everyone happy. Every project like Guadalupe Court is bound to step on someone’s toes. We don’t see any way to avoid that, and if you do, please share your insights with us and our readers.
Meanwhile, it’s great that progress is being made on this type of project in Guadalupe, but it should be evident that 38 new affordable units is a veritable drop in the bucket.