With its quaint boutiques, wine culture, and picturesque Spanish architecture, Santa Barbara isn’t a place one expects to find affordable housing—which is partly what makes this clever little infill gem so spectacular. You’d never know it’s affordable.

What’s more, you’d never peg it as new construction in a historic district. The 12 pretty apartments look like they’ve always occupied that tenth of an acre wedge between a parking garage and an adjacent commercial building. Units ranging from 485 to 602 square feet honor the town’s storied vernacular with high ceilings, decorative tile, bleached stucco and clay tile roof exteriors, arched colonnades, and iron gates and lanterns.

Residents enjoy private balconies overlooking a public plaza and library, plus easy access to a public bike station next door, mass transit, shopping, and parks. Transforming what was formerly a blank wall into an active streetscape, the project still manages to offer rents of just $560 to $680 per month to workers with incomes between $27,250 and $43,600 per year.

Category: Affordable housing project
Entrant/Architect: Peikert Group Architects, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Builder/Developer: People’s Self Help Housing, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Luis Obispo, CA, Santa Barbara, CA.