Santa Barbara County’s sixth cycle Draft Housing Element Update 2023-31 received a formal notice of “substantial compliance” from the State Housing and Community Development Department on Oct. 16, 2023, meaning it met all state requirements and will carry on its programs and initiatives for all areas of the county, including Isla Vista. 

“HCD appreciates your hard work and dedication provided in preparation of the County’s housing element,” Housing and Community Development (HCD) State Senior Program Manager Paul McDougall said in the press release. 

The element outlined various “placed-based measures” toward community revitalization and environmental justice. Nexus File Photo

The housing element deemed Isla Vista as the “sole disadvantaged community” in the unincorporated area of South Santa Barbara County, with the college town having lower median incomes, higher percentages of low and moderate income households and higher poverty rates due to rental costs and overcrowding. Isla Vista also has the largest populations of overpaying renters, according to the housing element.

This sixth cycle will require that the county accommodate 5,664 new housing units in the unincorporated parts of Santa Barbara county — including Isla Vista — by 2031.

The element outlined various “placed-based measures” toward community revitalization and environmental justice for areas with high concentrations of lower-income households, including Isla Vista. 

One measure is pursuing Active Transportation Plan sidewalk improvements for Isla Vista to develop more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly infrastructure through direct community feedback.

The element also aims to install Homekey units through the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and provide additional permanent housing units and 531 long-term rental subsidies between 2023-31 for I.V.’s houseless and special needs populations. The county also looks to process grant applications toward housing rehabilitations for lower-income residents in Isla Vista.

The county will also dedicate financial resources to the Low Moderate-Income Housing Asset Funds upon the dissolvement of the Isla Vista Redevelopment Agency — a program established in 1990 to develop private, commercial and affordable housing, as well as mixed use projects — in February 2012. This “small balance of funds” will remain toward future development purposes. 

The housing element will be brought before the County Planning Commission on Nov. 8, and before the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5. Rezoning initiatives will follow thereafter in early 2024 after the county releases the Program Environmental Impact Report that will analyze environmental impacts with such rezoning. 

 “We are taking a unique approach to rezone sites; our team identified more sites than required so the Board of Supervisors would have a range of options to choose from, and our staff successfully satisfied the State that this approach was sound,” Santa Barbara County Director of Planning and Development Lisa Plowman said in the press release. 

The housing element is a mandated component of the General Plan that outlines physical development initiatives in the county and directs local governments to plan toward housing needs over eight year cycles. 


Asumi Shuda
Asumi Shuda (they/them) is the Lead News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Shuda was the Deputy News Editor, Community Outreach News Editor for the 2022-23 school year and the 2021-22 school year and an Assistant News Editor during the 2020-21 school year. They can be reached at or