San Diego County



August 31, 2016

The Affordable Housing Situation in Southern California

We’re not going to sugarcoat the truth. Affordable housing in Southern California is a difficult situation presently. It all comes down to limited availability against a growing need. 

Currently, the waiting list for public housing can exceed a year. With few options on the market, once tenants finally secure a property, they do everything in their power to maintain their residence. In short, turn over on these properties is very low. It makes sense. If forced to leave, tenants would go from paying 30% of their income on housing to an untenable 70%.

The voucher programs also see application numbers higher than allotted vouchers. This leaves countless families searching for housing solutions.

The dismal housing situation is finally meriting attention from California lawmakers. While as of yet we haven’t seen any viable solutions, we are starting to see movement in terms of writing bills, seeking input, and putting some attention on the issues.

That could mean there is hope on the horizon.

While lawmakers look into solutions to solve the housing shortage, at the Housing Opportunities Collaborate we wanted to touch on an overview of affordable housing, as well as clear up some confusion between programs.


Difference Between Section 8 Program and Public Housing  

Affordable housing refers to housing options that do not succeed 30% of a household’s total income. That means that rent/mortgage, insurance, and utilities don’t collectively go over 30% of a family’s pay.

Perhaps one of the biggest areas of confusion is differentiating Section 8 Housing from Public Housing. With overly complex websites explaining the programs, it’s easy to understand how people confuse the two.

Section 8 Housing is a voucher program. Applicants who qualify are given a voucher to apply to rent at any location. As long as they meet the housing requirements and the landlord accepts the voucher, they can choose their property.

Public housing relates to specific units controlled by the housing authority. Once an applicant’s name reaches the top of the waiting list, they are placed into the next available property. This means that tenants do not have to find their own housing option.


Section 8 Housing in Southern California

According to the official website, “The California Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher) Program is a federal government initiative that aims to help low-income families in the state to access affordable, safe, and sanitary housing.”

In order to qualify, applicants must meet specific income eligibility requirements. They are based on family income and family size. This is compared against the median incomes of the area. The majority of vouchers are awarded to families who earn 30% of the median income.

Once approved for the program, each family is given specific guidelines for property rent price they can apply the voucher towards. This outlines the maximum rent based on current fair market value. This way families don’t exceed paying 30-40% of their income towards rent. Properties must also meet HUD requirements.

As long as they find a property meeting those requirements and a landlord willing to accept the voucher, they have much more flexibility over where they stay.

Should a landlord refuse to accept the voucher, there is nothing the prospective tenant can do for that property. They will need to continue their search for a property willing to accept the voucher.

You can apply for Section 8 Housing here.


Public Housing in Southern California 

According to the official website, “Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments for elderly families. 

When a property is built using federal funds, they are required to have a certain percentage of units allocated for affordable housing. This means that there are strict regulations around the amount of rent that the landlord can charge, making it an affordable option.

The Public Housing Authority overseeing that region fills these units. They pull from waiting lists where eligible families have already completed their application. Eligibility requirements are very similar to the Section 8 Housing Program.

Due to both political and economic reasons, there has not been a large enough increase in public housing options. This creates extremely long waiting lists. Eligible families are encouraged to apply directly to multiple Public Housing Authorities.


Where to Get Housing Help 

Navigating the housing situation can be overwhelming. Know you don’t have to go through it alone. At the Housing Opportunities Collaborative, we work to help individuals and families determine eligibility, complete the application process, and discover if there are any other housing programs that they qualify for.

We partner with the Virtual Counselor’s Network (VCN) to provide immediate help. Whether you visit one of the community kiosks, call in, or access help online, it is easy to get all your questions answered fast by housing professionals in your area.

When you call the VCN, they connect you with an intake specialist. This person takes the time to understand your situation. Then they connect you with a counselor specifically qualified to answer all of your housing questions, such as our team at the Housing Opportunities Collaborative.

Connect with the VCN today. Together we can help you and your family find housing solutions.