SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Expensive rent prices in Santa Barbara is not breaking news. However, the housing crisis never ceases to be a buzzing topic in the city.
According to the most recent census report, 60% of Santa Barbara residents are renters.
One of them is Guadalupe Noyola who called a small one bedroom apartment at the Ivy Apartment complex on Carrillo Street home for four years. She lived there with her two children until she came home to an eviction notice taped to her front door in October 2016. Property management taped the same notice to vacate to several households. Tenants were informed to vacate the premises by January 31, 2017.
"We got the notice during the holidays. They gave us 60 days to move out. I asked for extension, but they said no. It felt like it had to do with race," said Guadalupe Noyola, evicted from Ivy Apartment Homes.
Ventura Investment Co., a Camarillo based company, bought her aparmtent building in October. The company already owns other complexes in Santa Barbara. After the evictions, the Carrillo Apartments were fixed up. Today, the one bedroom Noyola claims cost her $1,300 a month, now rents for just under $2,000 dollars.
By law, landlords and property owners can evict tenants if they give at least 60 days notice.
Ventura Investment Co. sent us statements "in lieu" of an on-camera interview.
"We are committed to operating communities that are safe and clean, and that Santa Barbarans can be proud to call home. We comply with all fair housing laws and local ordinances, and lease to ALL applicants who qualify. Since the purchase of the Carrillo St. property, we have invested nearly $1.5 million in interior and exterior repairs and improvements.At the time of purchase, the Carrillo St. property was in poor condition inside and out, and had nearly 40 police responses within the preceding year. The notices to vacate were delivered in October and November 2016 to those with lease violations including police activity, evidence of overcrowding and poor living conditions. Nonetheless, all residents were offered the right to remain until 1/31/17 to allow for additional time to move without impacting the holidays."
The company wouldn't specify what Guadalupe had done wrong.
Noyola and other tenants didn't know where to go. Noyola reached out to Central Coast Alliance United for Sustainable Economy for help.
"They've been living there for years. A lot of people.. 30 years, 20 years. Guadalupe was part of this general concern of having to find a new place to live. Guadalupe has two children and so she was very worried where her kids are going to be able to sleep and so when she came up to us, it was really a plea for help," said Frank Rodriguez, CAUSE Santa Barbara Community Organizer.
Community groups such as CAUSE are now rallying for renters' rights.
"What's moving forward here in Santa Barbara is a convo about just cause which will talk about what rights tenants have against unjust, unfair and no cause evictions, especially helping with relocation assistance if it is an unjust eviction," said Rodriguez.
Hundreds of people attended the meetings, filling up the room and the hallway outside. Santa Barbara now has a task force of landlords and tenants to develop more information about rental agreements, safety, building inspections and when it's okay to evict people.
The phrase Section 8 is well known among lower income renters. It's part of a federal program to help those who qualify to get into an apartment they can afford with rents much lower than average. The problem is supply. In Santa Barbara, someone like Noyola will wait at least 10 years to get government assistance help.
"We have over 4,500 applicants that are in our community that need affordable housing. They're working families. They're seniors, non-senior disabled and a large portion are homeless," said Rob Fredericks, Santa Barbara Authority executive director.
The housing authority is like a landlord in some ways. They try to buy up rental properties up for sale then they convert them into affordable housing.
"We look for opportunities anywhere we can to build new, affordable housing that fits in well with the community. We pride ourselves on having safe decent affordable housing," said Fredericks.
We also reached out to the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors.
"The majority of property owners in town care about their tenants, their properties and their investment. I rarely ever hear of the horror stories of properties that aren't maintained," said Andy Alexander, president-elect of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors.
Alexander says local realtors aren't bad people.
"Here, they're buying at a high price even with the high rents in Santa Barbara. They don't see the same returns like they'd see in other areas. So every penny counts when you're owning a rental property that isn't covering the cost. You're taking a loss every year," said Alexander.
No one knows what it would take to solve the housing crisis here. So people like Noyola have a decision to make. Keep pinching pennies to live in Santa Barbara or pick up and move?
Last week, Congress cut federal funding which a portion of the budget impacts people who have been waiting to get approved for Section 8 Housing. Santa Barbara City's Housing Authority will not be able to give any vouchers out for the rest of this year.