Public Housing demand prompts waiting list closure

The San Francisco Housing Authority manages 6,262 housing units for low-income families, seniors and those with disabilities, and the demand far exceeds the supply.

“As of January 14, 2009, the public housing waiting list was 29,977,” according to a Housing Authority report. There are only 104 vacant units.

With such a long waiting list, the authority has decided it's time to shut the list down and deal only with the individuals who are already on it.

The reasons for the recommendation to close the list include money, efficiency and elimination of “false hope.”

There are only 13 employees who handle the applicants on the waiting list. “With a waiting list of 29,977, the average client caseload per employee is approximately 2,300,” the report said. “The budget for these eligibility activities is $1.4 million. Because the waiting list is so large, staff members are not always able to provide the type of customer service that prospective clients, and the SFHA itself, expect.”

Also, putting one's name on the waiting list could create false hope, the report said. “With a very low vacancy rate, it can sometimes take 10 years for clients to reach the top of the waiting list, leading to false hopes of finding immediate affordable housing in San Francisco.”

The benefit of the waiting list closure is that “it will eliminate unnecessary application processing costs and allow staff members to devote time to other important program activities such as hosting development fairs and working with property managers to effectively market their properties and communities.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to overhaul the public housing sites isn’t going exactly according to plan.

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