With Santa Barbara south coast median home prices swollen to $859,000, the new non-profit Housing Trust Fund (HTF) of Santa Barbara aims to increase the availability of affordable housing countywide.

The HTF Board of Directors hopes to create a $10 million loan fund to provide direct funding to developers, individuals and other groups that are building or supporting affordable housing projects.

Jennifer McGovern, HTF coordinator, said the fund aims to raise $1 million in seed money in order to receive a $1 million matching grant from the State of California’s Proposition 46, which provides state money for affordable housing trust funds up to $1 million.

“[The HTF] will create more resources to bridge the gap between construction costs and housing prices,” McGovern said. “It’s not a bank, but the trust raises money from various sectors and puts the money into a loan pool for financing affordable housing projects.”

McGovern said such financing compliments housing funds that already exist through other state and county housing assistance programs.

“Typically, once established, [the trust] can leverage $5 to $10 for every dollar raised,” McGovern said. “We hope to build a substantial sum of money and address a range of community housing issues for working families, local workers, senior citizens and people with special needs.”

McGovern said the HTF already has a “stellar” list of board members, which will eventually be expanded.

“The idea for the trust has been around for a couple years,” McGovern said. “A lot of really good thinking has gone into it. We’re very pleased with the results.”

Santa Barbara City Councilman Roger Horton will serve as the HTF board’s first president.

Horton, who held an administrative position at UCSB in the mid 1980s, said his interest in Santa Barbara County housing issues began at least 20 years ago when he founded the Coastal Housing Partnership, which helped the university attract and recruit young faculty by providing financial assistance to cover housing payments.

“The university was having a real problem with trying to recruit young faculty,” Horton said. “We created a partnership between local banks and local employers to provide down payment assistance. Faculty were able to get loans at a 5 percent interest rate rather than at 10, 15 or 20 percent.”

Horton said the type of trust fund used by the HTF has been quite effective in other regions, most notably in Silicon Valley, where it has helped “place dozens, if not hundreds of people.”

Santa Barbara County has a housing trust fund, Horton said, but the HTF is a non-profit organization that allows it to receive money from a wider variety of sources.

“There are certain types of funding that the county can’t go for because it’s a government agency. We’re not competing, but we can go for private donations where others can’t,” Horton said. “We’ve got to help people where we can.”