A local financial institution is banking on the construction of affordable housing in Santa Barbara, with a $500,000 donation to the nonprofit Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County.

Montecito Bank & Trust announced yesterday its decision to donate to HTF’s Revolving Loan Fund, which provides low-interest loans to local groups to initiate and develop affordable housing in the county. Revolving Loan Fund coordinator Jennifer McGovern said HTF hopes to collect $3 million in its fund by the end of 2006. The recent donation brings the group’s total funds to $2.7 million.

McGovern said the Revolving Loan Fund is one part of HTF – a nonprofit agency that works to create more affordable housing in Santa Barbara.

“The Revolving Loan Fund provides below-market interest rate loans to sponsors [who develop] low-income housing,” McGovern said. “We made a $1 million construction loan to the El Carillo project and the sponsor is the City Housing Authority. It’s a really terrific apartment building that will provide studio apartments for formerly homeless people, disabled people and workers.”

McGovern said HTF will use the donation to continue working with local officials to finance the development of new projects, including the creation of partnerships with private employers. She said the company is hoping to create a new program where local employers would develop affordable housing for their employees in the Santa Barbara area using money from the Revolving Loan Fund. UCSB would be welcome to participate in the new program, which would allow local employees to own homes in the county at reasonable prices, she said.

“We’re looking at ways that we can help facilitate people in the workforce owning a home in Santa Barbara County,” McGovern said. “It’s quite a formidable task, so we’re looking at building partnerships with employers to get employees involved in various ways, and using the vehicle of HTF as kind of a financial intermediary.”

HTF was developed after a 2001 workshop at Santa Barbara City College in which local residents and officials decided to create a trust fund to create affordable housing in the county, McGovern said.

Santa Barbara City Council member Roger Horton, president of HTF’s board, said he thinks affordable housing is an important issue for local residents.

“We are delighted to have Montecito Bank & Trust on board as a participant in our Revolving Loan Fund for affordable housing,” Horton said in a press release from HTF. “Their generosity and leadership is a tremendous support for this important community housing initiative that is so essential to the future economic and civil health of our communities.”