The lone Community Corporation of Santa Monica building, located on San Vicente Boulevard about a block from Palisades Park. (Daniel Archuleta

Myths and Truths about Affordable Housing

Community Corporation’s waiting list is opening for one week on May 29th. Many believe it’s impossible to obtain affordable housing here in Santa Monica.

As the Executive Director of the Community Corporation of Santa Monica (Community Corp.), one of the largest developers of affordable housing in Southern California – I hear many different reasons why potentially eligible individuals and families don’t apply to become residents in our properties.

Some say that there is an endless waiting list. Others believe that it requires overwhelming paperwork and a perfect credit score, or that you need inside connections.

So many of these perceptions are incorrect. I’d like to set the record straight about a few common myths about affordable housing in our community. This is for anyone who wants to apply, advocate for affordable housing, or to become better informed about it.

Myth:  Someone can only get into Community Corp. housing if they know a Community Corp employee or a member of the Santa Monica City Council.

Truth:  No one can get into Community Corp housing just by knowing staff or City Council. Our procedures do not allow that.

Myth: Only applicants with perfect credit can get into Community Corp. housing.

Truth:  We accept applicants with less than satisfactory credit and have recently made it easier to accommodate people with past challenges on their credit history. We also allow co-signers in some circumstances.

Myth:  Community Corp. does not prioritize tenants who are being evicted.

Truth: Tenants subject to Ellis Act evictions, in the City of Santa Monica, are our number one priority and jump to the top of our waiting list. Some other no-fault evictions, such as owner-occupied, also count. All tenants still have to income-qualify.

Myth:  Community Corp. housing does not give preference to Santa Monica residents.

Truth:  Community Corp gives preference to applicants who live or work in Santa Monica. The majority of our new residents are individuals who live and/or work in Santa Monica. However, due to fair housing law, we cannot prohibit or exclude people who don’t live/work in Santa Monica from our units. In addition, the City’s regulations do allow for people who work (not live) in Santa Monica tobe given preference.

Myth:  You need to earn a lot of money to live in Community Corp. housing.

Truth:  Affordable housing is just that—affordable to low-income people. That said, we do like to see a minimum income per household so that we know residents will be able to pay rent and live stably in our housing. We typically look to see that no more than 42 percent of your household income would go toward Community Corp. rent.

Myth:  You can never get into Community Corp. housing. I’ve tried for years and am still on the waiting list.

Truth: The sad reality is that we do not have enough affordable housing units for everyone who wants one, but our goal is to produce more affordable housing so that we can better serve the community’s needs. We also recently changed our waiting list system. Formerly, we purged it annually and had households reapply. Now, once you are on our list, you keep your place in line and simply refresh your paperwork.

Sadly, our waiting list has more than 5,000 people—and other local providers such as Thomas Safran have equally long waiting lists. Quality affordable housing is in high demand on the Westside. Please help support our goal by advocating for proposed affordable housing in your neighborhood!

Myth:  Community Corp. frequently evicts residents.

Truth: Our goal is to preserve housing stability. We are likely the most understanding landlord in our community and work with each resident to problem-solve on any potential housing instability issue. We rarely evict tenants, instead really trying to work with each person as much as possible. If people do get evicted it is for just cause.

Myth: Community Corp. housing is Section 8 housing.

Truth: Our affordable housing is typically funded with City of Santa Monica affordable housing trust funds, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, or a combination thereof. It is not “Section 8 housing” as people sometimes refer to it, but we do happily accept Section 8 vouchers if you have one.

Myth:  The paperwork that you need to complete to get into Community Corp. housing is impossible to understand.

Truth:  The paperwork aspect of getting into affordable housing can be challenging. However, we are here to serve the community and guide you through the process every step of the way. Our leasing process begins with a seminar in which we explain how to complete the early paperwork and process successfully.

Now that we’ve sorted fact from fiction, you should have a much more clear and comprehensive understanding to bring to any affordable housing application or discussion. We hope that those who are interested in living in our homes apply and are able to successfully become part of the Community Corp family.

Tara Barauskas is the Executive Director of Community Corporation of Santa Monica