The city of Santa Monica will open its waitlists for affordable housing and rental subsidies Friday, May 1 as an increasing number of people lose work amid the coronavirus shutdown.
Both the affordable housing and Section 8 programs are typically available to low- and moderate-income households who either live in Santa Monica, work in the city at least 25 hours per week, participate in a local job training program or were employed in Santa Monica recently and now receive benefits from the city.
But because of the economic devastation that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic, people who were working at least 25 hours per week in Santa Monica prior to March 1 but have since lost work for reasons related to COVID-19 may also qualify. Potential applicants can take a brief online quiz to check if they are eligible for either program.
“We’re really hoping to focus this assistance on our community members who need help,” said Housing Manager Barbara Collins.
Applicants who have been displaced due to a no-fault eviction will be prioritized on both waitlists, which will accept applicants on an ongoing basis, Collins said. In 2017, the last time the city opened the Section 8 program, 17,000 households applied for vouchers in less than two days, she said.
“What’s different about this process is it’ll be open indefinitely,” Collins said. “If people don’t get their applications in right away, they’ll still be able to apply.”
The city has more than 300 Section 8 housing vouchers to issue to people who live or work in Santa Monica and are rent-burdened, Collins said. Individuals can qualify for vouchers if they earn less than $40,000 annually, and the maximum income for a family of four is $56,000.
Collins said the Section 8 program is a good option for older adults who have lived in their homes for less than 20 years and are therefore ineligible for the Preserving Our Diversity program, Santa Monica’s rental assistance program for seniors.
Santa Monica’s affordable housing programs draws from a supply of deed-restricted apartments that developers are required to incorporate into market-rate projects, as well as affordable apartment buildings constructed by nonprofit developers.
Apartments are available for a variety of income levels, from households earning 30% to 120% of the Los Angeles area median income. Individuals earning up to $95,000 or larger households earning more than $100,000 annually may qualify for the affordable housing program.
“A lot of people have a sense of pride in not wanting to look for help, but now is the time to look for help and this could help a lot of people who wouldn’t have previously considered it,” she said. “I think many people who are making a little more than others have not really been aware that this program even exists.”
Collins said applicants will be referred to about 100 apartments slated to become available later this year in several new developments. Applicants will also be able to access existing apartments that became available after tenants moved out or passed away.
Millennium Santa Monica, a mixed-use complex near Bergamot Station on the former site of Village Trailer Park, will offer 38 affordable apartments when it opens in late summer, Collins said.
In December, Community Corporation of Santa Monica will open Greenway Meadows, a building adjacent to Woodlawn Cemetery with 39 apartments for low-income seniors.
For the first time, developers and property owners participating in the program will create online listings for their available units that will include information about their square footage, location and amenities. Applicants may even be able to view photos or layouts for each apartment they qualify for, Collins said.
“Households who meet the criteria will be notified a unit is available and either decline it or say they want to be considered,” she said. “Previously, people were informed when there was an opportunity but they didn’t know anything about the unit. This will give people a much more informed choice.”
Applications will be available in English and Spanish at www.santamonica.gov/housing. Applicants will need to provide documentation proving their income and their priority on the waitlists.
The Housing Division is available to help walk applicants through the process after the applications open May 1 at (310) 458-2232.
Because the city’s housing division is telecommuting due to coronavirus, all applicants will have to apply online with a valid email address, Collins said. She said applicants without internet access can call a neighbor or friend and give directions on how to complete the application by phone.