Housing wait list opening for first time since 2008

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Jay Dunn, The Salinas Californian

For the first time since 2008, the Housing Authority of the County of Monterey is opening the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Families in need of affordable housing will have a two-week window from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3 in which they can file online to be part of a computerized lottery. (A list of available resources for families is available below).

Leticia Fowler, Senior Housing Program Specialist for HACM, explains the details:

“The waiting list that’s going to be opening September 19 is for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. It used to be known as Section 8, so that’s usually what everybody knows it by,” she said.

During the filing window, qualifying residents will be able to apply to be on the waiting list for a rent subsidy.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program allows the client to find an apartment or house in Monterey County where the landlord is willing to work with them. They pay a portion of the rent based on income that HACM calculates, and the Housing Authority pays the difference.

“When we open the waiting list, we’re expecting about 10,000 applications,” Fowler said. “The last time we opened was in 2008, and we received a little more that 6,000 applications. The need now for housing, based on the economy, is much greater, so what we’re expecting is between 10,000 and 12,000.”

Last time, the waiting list was opened, HACM was using paper applications.

“We had a line out the door, people camped out over the weekend,” Fowler said. “It was not the greatest experience for the people who were applying. They were already in need of housing, and to feel like they have to camp out for it was not something we wanted to duplicate.”

So this time, applications can be filed online only. People can start applying at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 19.

But, Fowler emphasized, “it doesn’t matter when you apply, as long as it is between September 19 and October 3.”

Once everything is in electronically, HACM will use an outside agency that has managed waiting lists all over the country for housing authorities.

If HACM does receive 10,000 applications by the time the period closes Oct. 3, Fowler said 25 percent of the total number of applications will be randomly selected by a computerized program.”

If an applicant gets onto the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, there is no guarantee that they will receive a voucher, but it puts them on the list as a pre-application.

“Once all the names are sorted they are then placed on a waiting list, at which point, just like we do now, we pull them off the list, call them into our office for an orientation and an appointment where we will determine whether or not they are eligible for the program based on HUD’s guidelines,” Fowler said.

“Nothing needs to be scanned,” Fowler emphasized. “It’s just like if you go and apply for anything online. There’s no income verification that needs to be done at the time of application. They just need to make sure they have the information to input.”

Those applying will need to have Social Security numbers for all household members and their annual income, “but they don’t need to scan any proof of it to us at the time of application,” she said.

“We do have a process for making a reasonable accommodation request, but those need to be received in our office at 123 Rico St. in Salinas by September 21,” Fowler said. “Someone who does not have a computer, for instance, or who is perhaps blind or otherwise disabled, something that would not make it possible for them to do an online application, then they need to make this request in person before the 21st to see if we can accommodate them.”

A number of community agencies were asked if they could help disseminate information, and were offered training in order to provide appropriate guidance.

“For us, the big concern is the application window, as it is only two weeks long,” said Carissa Purnell, the director of the Alisal Family Resource Center, one of the agencies offering help. “That means that in order to be to apply for affordable housing, you will need access to a computer, access to the internet, and you will need an e-mail address.

“There’s a big technological gap that I see in terms of it being accessible, so that’s where a lot of the community agencies are stepping in to try to help folks get access to these services. We want to let families know that the process might be intimidating, but we’re here to help.”

Purnell said Alisal Family Resource Center, will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday during those two weeks. Those needing help can get bilingual support free of cost. “All you have to do is schedule an appointment,” she said.

The Salinas Public Library system will also offer assistance, Purnell said.

Follow Jay Dunn on Twitter @dunn_salnews #salinas

Housing Choice Voucher Program

Apply online at: https://wwwwaitlistcheck.com/CA1361

Web site: www.hamonterey.org

For more information: Housing Authority of Monterey County, 123 Rico St., Salinas, CA 93907; phone: 831-775-5000, Joni Ruelaz 831-775-5040, TDD: 831-754-2951; fax: 831-424-9153.

Personal help and referrals:

Alisal Family Resource Center, 1441 Del Monte Avenue. Salinas, CA 93905; phone: 831-775-4500; fax: 831- 753-5273

Cesar Chavez Library, 615 Williams Road, Salinas, CA 93905; phone: 831-758-7345.