DOWNTOWN — Santa Monica’s largest affordable housing provider is making its list and checking it many, many times.
Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM) opened its doors to new applicants Monday, kicking off the long, competitive process for affordable housing. Applicants can take the first step, signing up for January seminars, on Mondays through Thursdays until the end of the month.
This year, about 5,000 people are expected to make it onto the list from which CCSM randomly selects when a unit becomes available. About 80 to 120 vacancies come up every year. Despite the low odds, just days after Black Friday, a line of applicants formed outside of 502 Colorado Ave. to make their appointments.
“Who wouldn’t want to live in Santa Monica?” asked Harvey Cowen, who was waiting in line around noon on Monday.
Cowen is unemployed and currently lives on the border of Culver City and Los Angeles. He’s looking for a space for himself and his son, who is in college.
“I had a friend who got on the list and she got a really nice place,” he said. “So they are out there if you get selected.”
After the roughly 40-minute wait in line, applicants were given appointments for January. At these appointments they submit their basic financial information and, if they qualify, they make it onto the marketing list.
Aside from income qualifications, prospective tenants can’t have been evicted in the past five years or have more than $2,000 in negative credit. Personal and property crime convictions within the last five years are also reasons for denial.
H. Lewis, who was waiting for an application with his grandchild, said that this is one of his concerns.
“I’m not talking about rape and murder, but I’ve had to hustle in my life,” Lewis said. “I need a chance to start over. I’ve gotten to the second and third rounds of interviews at Target, but once they start talking about my past it’s over. Don’t ask me about my past.”
The unemployed Long Beach resident made the trek to Santa Monica to get on the list after he got a letter about it in the mail. He’s looking for a space for his companion, his daughter, and her two children.
“I’m learning about the process as I go,” he said.
When a new unit opens up or a tenant moves out (CCSM’s turnover rate is less than 2 percent) CCSM officials invite a select number of people, usually 30 to 60, who fit the requirements to attend an open house. The prospective tenants who meet the assigned criteria are selected randomly.
“We’ll go into the marketing list and let’s say it’s a unit that’s restricted to two bedrooms and restricted to households of 60 percent median income,” Sue Keintz, Community Corporation’s director of housing development, explained to the Daily Press earlier this year. “So we just tell our database, give us 30 people.”
Those 30 people are required to attend the open house. If they don’t, they’re removed from the list for one to three years. If those that do attend the open house decide they don’t like the unit, they are also removed from the list.
“The thought is that if you turn down a unit, you don’t need housing that much,” Keintz said. “You have a place that’s preferable.”
If the potential renters do like the unit, they get an application and the process becomes first-come-first-serve.
The first household that returns that application, with everything filled out correctly and all the signatures, gets in another line. Community Corporation is required by its funding sources to independently verify all of the information. They check with banks and employers.
“If their employer is like, ‘I’m not in the mood or whatever,’ it could push them to the back of the list,” Keintz said. “Maybe they came in first but the person right behind them has an employer that gets us the stuff. It winds up being that kind of game. We have so much competition.”
So if you get on the list, get selected for an open house, get your application in fast, and are the first of 30 to 60 people to be independently verified by CCSM, you get the unit.
Audelina Gonzalez, of Culver City, was looking for a unit to house herself, her husband, and her three kids.
Her husband works at night near the Third Street Promenade. She wants her kids to go to Santa Monica schools and she believes that she’ll be able to find herself a job here.
“There are more opportunities here,” she said. “For my husband’s job, it is much closer.”
The office at 502 Colorado Ave. is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays until Dec. 31. It is closed on Christmas.
— Greg Ascuitto contributed to this report.