How seniors can get on the waiting list for affordable housing | News

Affordable housing is the top request the Palo Alto Avenidas senior services agency receives on its helpline, says social worker Thomas Kingery.

Hundreds of federally subsidized seniors’ apartments exist in Palo Alto, but eliminating waiting lists can take months or years, and many waiting lists are closed completely, according to Kingery and d others working in the field.

There is urgent demand and a severe supply shortage, Kingery said.

Those who get a subsidized apartment pay about a third of their income for rent according to federal guidelines. The balance is covered by a series of programs run by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In a recent interview with this news agency, Kingery gave his advice to people aged 62 and over applying for government housing assistance.

“There’s no simple, sensible way to look for housing for low-income people,” Kingery said.

People looking for housing should repeatedly check multiple government and non-profit housing operator websites to keep tabs on open waiting lists, then quickly apply to be added to the lists.

In Palo Alto, it can take up to three and a half years to clear the waiting list for a studio apartment in downtown Lytton Gardens, said Donna Quick, assistant housing administrator. Right now, the wait is considerably shorter for spaces in the complex’s assisted living section, which comprises about 50 of Lytton Gardens’ 289 units, Quick said.

As of last week, waiting lists have been closed at the 120-unit Stevenson House on Charleston Avenue and the 57-unit Sheridan Apartments near California Avenue — two federally-supported apartment complexes in Palo Alto dedicated to the elderly. Stevenson House closes its list if the existing waiting list contains so many names that the average wait for a unit is a year or more, according to its published procedures.

But waiting lists were open for some single-occupancy rooms in buildings in downtown Palo Alto and an apartment complex on San Antonio Road, as well as several senior housing developments in Mountain View.

Once on a list, applicants can still wait months or years for an apartment, depending on the project, local housing administrators said.

Kingery said many of those who call him are residents who have lived here all their lives and for one reason or another need to find low-income housing, which is not necessarily available to them.

Kingery said he received a call, for example, from a longtime resident who lived with an elderly relative in the family home on a reverse mortgage. When the parent died, ownership of the house passed to the bank and the adult child had to leave.

“It’s unfortunate because (Palo Alto) is where their friends are. That’s where their doctors are. That’s where their sense of belonging is,” Kingery said. “It’s hard for me to tell them that if they want a roof over their head they’re going to have to leave, that’s a detail they don’t want to accept.”

The Santa Clara County Housing Authority as well as nonprofits Alta Housing, Lytton Gardens, MidPen Housing and Stevenson House, which operate low-income apartments in the area, are among the groups seniors should check with when they are looking for accommodation.

Income criteria for subsidized housing vary depending on how a project was financed, said Sheryl Klein, COO of Alta Housing, but tenants typically pay a third of their monthly income for rent.

Income eligibility in many cases is calculated as a percentage of the area’s median income. According to the most recently released figures from HUD for Santa Clara County, a person would need to have an income of $58,000 or less (50% of median income) to qualify for federal housing assistance. A couple should earn $66,300 or less.

Beyond self-contained seniors’ complexes like Lytton Gardens and Stevenson House, thousands of low-income apartments scattered across the peninsula — and beyond — are managed by Alta and MidPen.

Since there is no charge to join a waitlist, Klein encourages applicants to maximize their chances by joining waitlists for as many properties that interest them.

“If people want to come into our office (in Palo Alto), we’ll help them fill out the paperwork,” she said.

Among the 26 properties operated by Alta, waiting lists opened last week at Alma Place and the Barker Hotel, two single-bedroom apartment buildings in downtown Palo Alto, as well as the California Hotel on California Avenue and El Dorado Place Apartments on Alma Street. on El Dorado Avenue in Palo Alto. Fair Oaks Commons in Redwood City and the Eagle Park and Luna Vista apartment complexes in Mountain View also had open waiting lists.

MidPen Housing, which manages low-income housing in 11 Northern California counties, only opens waiting lists when numbers drop, so the likelihood of someone being called for a unit in a few months is good, said Tommy McDonald, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs.

“It’s on a first-come, first-served basis,” he said.

But the selection is usually done by lottery when MidPen opens a new resort.

“Once the application period opens, we often get thousands of applicants,” McDonald explained. “It really depends on the results of the lottery.”

Among the waiting lists opened at MidPen last week were Palo Alto Gardens, an affordable mixed-use resort for families and seniors on San Antonio Road, as well as seniors’ resorts Paulson Park I, Paulson Park II and The Fountains. in Mountain View.

Beyond project-based subsidized units, the Santa Clara County Housing Authority administers federally subsidized Section 8 vouchers to individuals or families, for use in the private market. In this program, the housing agency pays the subsidy directly to the landlord on behalf of the participating household.

The county agency is currently providing vouchers to 170 senior-led Palo Alto households, according to Housing Authority management analyst Orleashia Amey. An additional 119 households in Palo Alto that are not senior-led also hold vouchers, Amey said.

“Anyone interested in receiving a (funded by HUD) voucher can sign up for our interest list, where applicants are randomly selected when vouchers become available,” she said. Countywide, the housing authority was administering vouchers for more than 19,000 households by the end of 2021. Thousands more are meeting income guidelines to qualify if more federal funds become available, according to the agency.

Until recently, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County offered a home-sharing program, matching housing seekers with landlords wanting extra income, but that program was phased out in late 2021. Angela Laines, Marketing Manager and communications for the agency, don’t know if the program will restart.

An additional resource for seniors looking for affordable housing is the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, which offers counseling for seniors and people with disabilities. The agency organizes a monthly housing workshop on Zoom to help people in their search. The agency also provides information on housing outside the county, where it may be cheaper for seniors to live.

The Avenidas Senior Services Agency will be offering an informational presentation for those seeking low-income housing in Santa Clara County on Wednesday, March 9 from 3-4:30 p.m. To register for the free session, send an email [email protected] or call 650-289-5400. Proof of vaccination will be required at the door.

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