An Interview with Scott and Sheri Martin

When Scott and Sheri Martin looked to buy their first home, using Coastal Housing Partnership (CHP) made the difference between being able to buy “something” and buying a house they really wanted, without compromising.

Both Scott and Sheri grew up in Santa Barbara — attending San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara City College, and UCSB — all the while watching real estate prices skyrocket over the years.

“Even for two professionals that were making good salaries in Santa Barbara, it’s still a daunting task to get into a home,” said Scott, a Strategic Business Consultant.

They pondered their options for a couple of years before Sheri, a first grade teacher at Adams School, went on the CHP website ( to research mortgage lenders.

One of their first calls was to Christine Errea, at Chase Home Finance, a CHP discount provider that offers back 100% of the processing fee, credit report fee and 1/8% of the interest rate on first mortgages.

“The people on the network are fantastic,” said Scott, giving high praise to both Errea and real estate agent Kristiann Wightman, who owns Presidio Properties, another Homebuyers Assistance Program Participating Organization, which offers buyers back 40% of the broker commission.

With the combined discounts from Chase and Presidio, the Martins were able to purchase a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Solvang, which includes an unobstructed view of the entire valley from their backyard.

“We were able to find the place we really wanted to get into, and it was made possible. That’s the thing that CHP really did for us,” said Scott. “We didn’t have to make compromises and that’s what we were honestly, very concerned about for a long time.”

In addition to singing the praises of CHP to their colleagues, the Martins also want to let employers know what a great benefit CHP membership is.

Citing the common complaint of high employee turnover in Santa Barbara County, Scott said, “… If it helps them maintain their employee base and deepen their bench, it’s not just good for the homebuyer, it’s good for the employer too.”

Originally published in the Coastal Housing Partnership Newsletter

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.

Where We Live

The South Coast’s housing prices have taken a toll on the community’s critical workforce. Leslie Dinaberg reports on the cost of spreading ourselves too thin.

We all know the South Coast’s cost of housing is skyrocketing, but what about the other “costs” that are incurred when our critical workforce can’t afford to live here?

Continue reading

Housing forums strike environmental nerve

Nowhere is the mass of contradictions that make up the South Coast’s collective consciousness more evident than when the topic of housing opens its rickety gate.

In response to “some apparent, deep-seated conflicts among usual allies in the South Coast,” where “the long tradition of ‘no (or slow) growth’ seems to be at odds with housing advocates’ efforts to provide more low-, moderate-income and workforce housing on the South Coast,” Santa Barbara County Action Network recently sponsored a series of community forums on housing and the environment.

“We can’t have it both ways,” said SBCAN Board member Mickey Flacks. In summarizing what she learned at the forums, Flacks said, “We want affordable housing but only for the right kind of people … we want ag lands but we don’t want density … The community will have to decide what is most important and what we are willing to give up in order to get (that).”

What is most important was much debated at the forums. For some, such as Barbara Greenleaf, protecting agricultural land is a priority. She described the county’s plans to develop the San Marcos Growers property (near Hollister and Turnpike avenues) as “where environmental and affordable housing interests clash.”

“Ag land in Goleta is incredibly well-suited to be retained. (It is) a very valuable part of our community and I don’t think we want to lose it, said Linda Krop, a panelist, who is senior counsel for the Environmental Defense Center.

Activist Dan Ancona countered, “We are not in an Ag land crisis … we’re not even in a view crisis … we’re in a housing crisis.”

Jobs, housing and transportation all have to be handled together, said Bob Ferris, a panelist and the executive director of the Community Environmental Council. While panelists agreed on that notion in concept, they differed in terms of the steps they recommend.

Gerry DeWitt called for banning market-rate housing. “It would be great if people would start talking about rent control again,” said Krop, who also advocated targeting major employers to help get their employees out of cars. “It can be done, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.

It may not happen overnight, but “part of the answer is political activism,” said moderator Pedro Nava, SBCAN’s president, who is running for Hannah-Beth Jackson’s 35th-District assembly seat.

Prompted in part by the state-mandated process for the City and County Housing Element Updates, as well as the recent incorporation of Goleta, the discussions were sponsored by the Citizens Planning Association and the South Coast Livable Communities group, along with SBCAN.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 23, 2003.

Board extends comment deadline for county Draft Housing Element

The Hollister Area Neighborhood Association (HANA) scored a minor victory when the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors agreed to extend the deadline for public comment on the Draft Housing Element until Monday, Oct. 27.

The deadline extension was at least partially in response to a petition circulated by HANA and signed by 1,300 to 1,400 residents, to oppose re-zoning and developing the Hollister corridor between Turnpike and Patterson in the unincorporated part of the county, according to HANA spokesperson/consultant Dennis Baker.

Santa Barbara County 2nd District Supervisor Susan Rose and her executive staff assistant, Alissa Hummer, met with HANA members on Sept. 15 to discuss a variety of issues related to the Housing Element. HANA presented Rose with a number of demands related to the housing element and protection of agricultural zoning and open spaces in the county, but the extension of the deadline for public comment was the only concession granted.

HANA initially grew out of concern over proposed re-zoning and development of the San Marcos Growers property at 125 S. San Marcos Rd., which the neighbors learned about from a newspaper article, said Barbara Greenleaf, HANA Steering Committee Member. “It was such a shock to all of us that we turned out angered beyond belief. I don’t know why the planning department was so stunned. …This is a precious community resource and the fact that (Developer Michael) Towbes is already measuring … for the Berber rugs, is very discouraging,” she said.

“… There’s no interest in what the residents have to say in this area about the development, especially about the San Marcos property, which is agricultural property,” Baker said.

“… People are speaking up, but they’re speaking out on all sides of this issue,” said Hummer, who mentioned that in addition to HANA and other neighbors of the proposed development areas, she has also heard from “a number of people who support more housing, and more workforce housing.”

Rose was out the country and unavailable for comment.

“We’ve had a fair amount of phone calls and emails, but not yet a lot in terms of official comment to be included … I’ve been primarily answering a lot of questions,” said County Planner Alicia Harrison.

A public hearing on the Housing Element will go before the Planning Commission after the Oct. 27 deadline for written public comment and comments are also received from the state, Harrison said. She said she anticipates the hearings will begin this winter and that the Housing Element will go before the Board of Supervisors in early spring.

The Draft Housing Element is available online at or at the Planning and Development offices, 123 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Written comments may be sent to that address or emailed to

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on October 2, 2003.