What Do They Mean?

Decoding the language of housing

Are you confused by the bureaucrat-speak often used to describe various housing elements and policies? We were, too, so we put together a glossary to help you understand the language.

Affordable Housing

In the city of Santa Barbara the term means households should not be required to pay more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income on rent and utilities, or 35 percent on house payments, homeowners’ association dues, insurance and property taxes, and that the unit should remain affordable to subsequent residents or owners throughout the term of the affordability controls. Specific affordability requirements vary depending upon whether the housing is for rental or sale.

Area Median Income (AMI)

The Housing and Urban Development Department determines the “Area Median Income” for areas throughout the nation, and updates the figure approximately yearly. Municipalities use this figure as a basis for calculating the maximum rents and maximum sale prices permitted under various affordable housing programs. The current annual AMI for a family of four in this area is $64,7000.

The city of Santa Barbara uses the following guidelines to define income:

Income Percentage of Category/Area Median Income

Very low Income 50% or below

Low Income +50% – 80%

Moderate Income +80% – 120%

Middle Income +120% – 160%

Upper-Middle Income +160% – 200%

Density Bonus

When a municipality allows development of a greater number of units than would normally be allowed under the existing zoning. In general, as a trade-off, some of the units on the site are then subject to rent restrictions or resale controls.

Inclusionary Housing Programs

Designed to increase the availability of housing opportunities for middle-income and upper-middle income households. Programs, which vary throughout the South Coast, include requirements for larger projects to provide a specified number of inclusionary units within the project or pay in-lieu fees to be used toward producing more housing at an alternate site.

Sweat Equity

A term used by Habitat for Humanity in which recipients of low-cost housing are required to put in a certain number of hours of labor to build the house.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on October 7, 2004.

St. Vincent’s project digs into future for housing

170 affordable units will be ready in 2006

The largest affordable housing project in Santa Barbara’s history broke ground Wednesday. When completed in early 2006, the St. Vincent’s affordable housing project will provide 170 new low-cost rental units to the community, 95 of which will be reserved for low-income seniors, and 75 of which will be for low-income families.

The project, located at 4200 Calle Real near Highway 154, has taken more than seven years of planning, fund raising, negotiating and coordinating between St. Vincent’s Daughters of Charity, Mercy Housing, the city, the county, the Hope and Santa Barbara school districts, builders Melchiori Construction and Walton Construction, and various other government and nonprofit entities.

“Although they say it takes a village to raise a child, apparently it takes a universe to raise a house,” Sister Amy Bayley of Mercy Housing said as she thanked the many people who worked to bring the project to fruition.

The total combined cost of the housing development, improvements ments to existing administrative buildings, creation of an adult day health center, and establishment of an operating endowment is estimated at $57 million.

“Rejoice with us. The dream of providing a safe haven for families and seniors is finally becoming a reality. We are thrilled that we are able to respond to this need for the Santa Barbara community,” said Sister Alicia Martin of St. Vincent’s.

Part of the reason the project took so long to break ground was its 19-acre site, which has a creek running through it. The property also had to be annexed from into the city from the county in order to make it eligible for redevelopment agency funds, said city housing and redevelopment manager Dave Gustafson.

Mitigations to the school districts were another factor that had to be negotiated. Because the property feeds into the Hope Elementary School District and the Santa Barbara High School District, they will share the $400,000 development fee to help offset the cost of providing additional classrooms, teachers and other support for the students the project is expected to bring.

The Hope district only has three schools, so the impact of the estimated 60 additional students is much more significant than it will be on the high school district. In recognition of this, the St. Francis Hospital Foundation generously pledged an additional $150,000 to help the district, said school board member Michael Underwood

Even though St. Francis Medical Center closed before the St. Vincent’s project got off the ground, its owner, Catholic Healthcare West, still met the financial obligation to the schools, said Bayley.

The site is currently zoned as part of the Vieja Valley School District, although that might change.

“The board is always looking to make sure that the socioeconomic balance is spread as equally as possible within the district … so that will be something that we be re-evaluating … in addition to our enrollment that we have, and the availability at each of our three school sites,” Underwood said.

Mercy Housing will act as landlord for both the senior and the family units, and expects to begin taking applications late next year. Households with incomes at or below 60 percent of area median income ($38,820 for a family of four) will be eligible for the two-, three-, and four-bedroom family units. The one-bedroom senior apartments will be available to seniors with a head of household 62 years or older, with incomes at or below 50 percent of area median income ($22,650 for a one-person household or $25,900 per year for a two-person household).

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Taking a trip down memory aisle

© Lissdoc | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Lissdoc | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

For better or for worse, the pictures of our past only tell part of our stories.

Weddings and high school dances — certain life events feel more like scrapbook pages in the making than actual experiences. The excitement builds with the planning, like a movie score playing in the background leading up to these special days.

While the vision of perfection varies widely from bride to bride, almost every woman I’ve ever known (myself included) has a dream of the perfect wedding. There’s the cake, the flowers, the bridesmaids, the groom (a mere supporting player), and then there’s the dress.

To my knowledge, I am the only person in the universe ever to have bought the very first wedding dress I tried on.

I had to try on another 3,781 dresses to verify that the first one was perfect, but that’s beside the point. I knew exactly how I wanted to look on my wedding day (like myself, only perfect) and would have gone to the ends of the Earth to find the dress that would magically play up my assets while hiding my imperfections. My mom, my sister and I went to all 347 bridal salons between Santa Barbara and Orange County before buying that very first dress back at Rumours right here in town. I recently re-experienced some of that “finding-the-perfect-wedding-dress frenzy” with our art director, Andrea Harbour, who is getting married in the Bahamas this weekend. After staking out every bridal boutique between San Diego and San Francisco (and a few in her hometown of Dallas), Andrea finally found the Monique Lhuillier gown of her dreams and was able to order it from Rumours.

I think all of us at the Beacon got a lump in our throats when she had her final fitting last Wednesday. The fitting occurred in our conference room. On deadline.

By the way, if you found her garter belt in your paper, could you please return it? Thanks.

I know Andrea will remember the dress, and the fact that her original destination was taken out by Hurricane Ivan. I hope she’ll also remember the way the skirt felt swirling around her feet, the sound of the ocean in the background, the pink sand in her toes, and the way her soon-to-be husband Rich looks the first time he sees her in that once-in-a-lifetime white confection.

Shopping for the perfect dress is part of the buildup to those big days, the ones we take all the pictures of. Pictures that we stuff into boxes and swear we’ll put into albums real soon.

While Andrea’s walking down the aisle a continent away, the San Marcos High homecoming princesses will be showing off their own dresses as they’re escorted onto the field Friday night. My first homecoming dress was a horror in dusty rose taffeta, but still a step up from the emerald green Quiana number in my junior year.

Have you seen what high school girls wear to homecoming lately? It’s appalling. Classic black cocktail dresses. Tasteful designer sheathes. What kind of embarrassment-free memories are these poor girls creating for themselves?

If they can’t share my tortured fashion memories of crimped hair and day-glow eye shadow, then hopefully Carmel Aguirre-Kolb, Kaitland Ely, Alma Flores, Katie Levien and Sarah McGinnis will remember the sounds of their classmates cheering, the October nip in the air, and those looks of awe and pride on their fathers’ faces as they escort them to the 50-yard line.

And when they get to the homecoming dance, I hope they remember the details. The music, the room decorations, how beautiful their friends look in their too-grown-up dresses and the look in mom’s eyes when you introduce her to your date. In short, all the stuff you can’t see in the cheesy photos in front of the fireplace and the even cheesier photos in front of that fake sunset background at the dance.

It’s the story behind the pictures that make the real memories.

And I promise to get it all in my album tomorrow. No, really.


Having caught nostalgia fever, loyal Royal Leslie Dinaberg will be spending time with her yearbooks this homecoming weekend.

She can be contacted at email

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on October 7, 2004.