Santa Barbara County is in the midst of purchasing 20 Picasso Road apartment units with the intent of renovating and supplying them to low-income tenants.

Assuming the deal goes through, management of the two apartment complexes at 6682 and 6688 Picasso will be entrusted to the Santa Barbara County Housing Authority, which will also oversee a $4 million renovation of the properties. The deal remains in escrow but should close by the end of May.

“Our community can look forward to a well-designed and responsible project to provide affordable rental housing to those who need it the most,” Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said.

Deputy Director of the County Redevelopment Agency Jamie Goldstein said the county will pay for the Picasso properties using a set-aside portion of the local property tax.

“State law requires any redevelopment project area [such as Isla Vista] to set aside 20 percent of property tax growth for affordable housing,” Goldstein said. “This incremental increase in tax money is used to improve the area. In this case, the Redevelopment Agency gets about $800,000 a year for housing.”

As part of the deal, any current tenants in the Picasso apartments who do not meet the qualifications for low-income housing will be relocated and receive assistance from the Housing Authority, said Fred Lamont, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Housing Authority. Those who remain or who are given an apartment will be protected from arbitrary eviction, and will be provided with higher-quality housing once renovations are completed.

“In Santa Barbara County you’ve got many, many people of low-income status living in substandard conditions,” Lamont said. “We have preferences for people who are already living here, who are low-income, who are veterans or who are living in substandard conditions and now we’re putting them in an appropriate setting.”

Firestone said the affordable housing units would counter the effects skyrocketing rent prices have had on I.V.’s low-income renters.

“This ties up these apartments into affordable housing for all time, so you won’t see anything like what happened with the other Picasso housing,” Firestone said, referring to the controversy with Conquest Student Housing’s Coronado apartment complex. “Plus, the Housing Authority is required to relocate all tenants who do not qualify for the low income housing.”

The project will first be reviewed this month by the Isla Vista Project Area Committee, which will advise the County Board of Supervisors on approval of the project.