New housing inches its way into town

Housing projects from Habitat for Humanity, the Mental Health Association and Hillside House are all inching their way to reality. Here’s an update on these three projects:

Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County cleared a final hurdle to start with plans to build three homes for low-income families last week when the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), backed by the Santa Barbara City Council, gave its final approval of a $240,000 loan to aid in the purchase of land on Via Lucero near upper State and Calle Real. It will be the first major building project for Habitat for Humanity here. Escrow was cleared last week.

Supported by local churches, corporations, foundation and individual donors, Habitat for Humanity has raised 70 percent of the nearly $800,000 needed to pay for materials, design and permit fees.

“I am looking forward to seeing many community volunteers out there swinging hammers,” said Mayor Marty Blum.

The organization will now recruit volunteers to help build the houses and determine who will live there. A requirement for homeowners is they must contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” for construction.

The Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County’s “Building Hope” capital campaign to build up to 50 units of housing has raised 58 percent of its $4.1 million fundraising goal, organizers announced this week. Half of the homes will be reserved for MHA clients and half for affordable housing for downtown workers.

As I understand it, in the recipe of capital campaigns, reaching that 58 percent goal is really significant, said executive director Annemarie Cameron.

The total project cost is $17.3 million but with the City of Santa Barbara’s commitment of $4.6 million in Redevelopment Agency funds, bond financing and the donation of all development costs by Bermant Development Company, only $4.1 million will come from fundraising.

In addition to housing, the new facility at 617 Garden St. will also accommodate the MHA offices, a resource center for families and the Fellowship Club, where people with mental health disabilities can meet for social time and life skills learning.

Hillside House and partners Bermant Development Company and the County Housing Authority have been working closely with neighbors and the Planning Commission to develop a master plan for the site at 1235 Veronica Springs Road. The conceptual proposal for the 26.74 acre site, reviewed by the Planning Commission this week, included 38 residential buildings with up to 127 homes, public pedestrian, equestrian and bike trails and 17.74 acres of open space with 9 acres developed.

I think the neighbors are not as worried as before, said Kirsten Ayers, spokeswoman for the development group.

The project is planned in two phases to ensure that the 59 residents of Hillside House will be able to remain on the property continuously. Groundbreaking is not anticipated until early 2006.

This story contains additional reporting by Sally Cappon.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on September 23, 2004.

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