BY JULIA NGUYEN | March 13, 2022
The search for affordable housing has been a continuing issue for many residents in Santa Barbara County. With home prices rising into the millions, many low-to-moderate income families struggle to purchase a house and put their roots down in our community. The Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County (HTFSBC) is a resource to help develop solutions in this wide-spread community crisis, and has been the intermediary organization helping residents purchase their first homes while also advocating for affordable housing for our most vulnerable populations.
Since its creation in 2005, HTFSBC has raised $13 million in private and public funds to support its affordable housing and homebuyer assistance programs. They collaborate with the private local financial sectors and government agencies to fund affordable housing production and provide low-interest loan programs for residents to begin their lives as homeowners.
In 2012, they created the Workforce Homebuyer Program to help first-time home buyers purchase property in Santa Barbara County. The program initially provided 30-year deferred down payment loans to 28 low-income North County households. “More than half of the residents were able to repay their down payment loans,” said Jennifer McGovern, the President and CEO of HTFSBC. “This allowed the loans to be recycled to make additional loans – this was the whole goal of the program.” In 2018 HTFSB expanded the program to Southern Santa Barbara County, making interest-only loans available to low to upper-moderate income homebuyers.
Jennifer foresaw rising home prices in the tri-county area during the start of her career. She noted, “very early, I got interested in affordable housing. I’m kind of a planner by proclivity, and I saw long term that housing was going to be an issue because Santa Barbara is such a desirable community, and the demographics over time are going to make it difficult for everyday working people to live here.” She began her career in affordable housing with the Community Action Commission, now called CommUnify. During her time there, she worked to provide affordable housing to seniors in the community. Her pride project from her time at CommUnify is Pilgrim Terrace, which continues to serve many seniors on Santa Barbara’s Westside. Jennifer then went on the road to become a consultant. During her time as a consultant, she worked with a group of local community leaders who would then create the HTFSBC.
HTFSBC has since assisted 67 families into their first homes in the County, and solidified their organization as a reliable financial institution, which encouraged other financial backers to put their money behind affordable housing projects. “When I first did Pilgrim Terrace back in the day, we had around two funding sources. Now most of these projects have five to six funding sources,” said Jennifer. “We try to be that missing finance gap or the first one to get things rolling so other funders feel comfortable.”
The Santa Barbara Foundation awarded HTFSBC with a grant of $25,000 to support their efforts in providing homes for residents in the County. The grant helped support their loan programs, as well as housing loan workshops in North County and increasing the organization’s exposure and access to resources. With the financial help of this grant, HTFSBC is now launching the second round of their Workforce Homebuyer Program. They will be providing a down-payment loan up to $100,000 on a 30-year deferred loan for first time low-income home buyers, with a focus on North County residents.
Though they have many successes, Jennifer and the organization continue to plan for the future. HTFSBC is working with Apis Cor from Florida, a 3D printing company, to provide alternatives in home building through their Housing Innovation project. “You can cut down the time of building the home from 12 months to three to four months. That’s huge! This reduces financing cost and time,” said Jennifer. She hopes that this project will help bridge the divide between environmentalism and housing, taking a step into a sustainable future for home building.
Jennifer hopes the Fund will keep growing with the help of the community. “We’re a very small fund at around $7 million for our housing production component, but we can do so much more if the community could get behind us and raise more dollars. If we can combine the resources of the public, private business and nonprofit sectors, it creates a positive synergy and we can achieve much more,” she said. “If we can build the fund, we can all work together to create more housing solutions.”
To learn more about the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara and its work, visit sbhousingtrust.org.