Affordable housing under construction

The Sierra Madre affordable senior apartments, a Peoples’ Self-Help Housing development in Santa Maria, are shown under construction in December 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has made even affordable housing out of reach for some families as their income has plummeted, but rental assistance is available from Santa Barbara County through United Way.

Applications are being taken for Santa Barbara County Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds to help people whose income has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a county spokeswoman said.

The program is administered by United Way of Santa Barbara County and is open to households whose income is 80% of the area median income and are potentially in danger of losing their place of residence and even becoming homeless, the spokeswoman said.

California Department of Housing and Community Development has set the 2021 area median income for Santa Barbara County at $90,100 for a four-person household.

But that figure is adjusted downward for households of less than four people and upward for those with more than four, according to the HCD income guidelines released in April.

For example, the area median income for a two-person household in Santa Barbara County is set at $72,100, while the median income for a six-person household is $104,500 and for an eight-person household would be $118,950.

Applicants also must prove their loss or reduction of income has occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those who qualify can apply for assistance with rent and utility debt dating back to March 2020, the spokeswoman said.

To apply for Santa Barbara County rental assistance, visit

Tenants and landlords who have already submitted applications to United Way can check on the status of their applications by calling 805-965-8591.

A separate California-run emergency rental assistance portal has been closed to applications from Santa Barbara County, the spokeswoman said, but applications that were submitted prior to the cutoff are still being processed by the state.

Tenants or landlords who need to confirm the status of an application submitted to the state program can call 833-430-2122 or look up their application at