In an effort to improve service, the Sonoma County Housing Authority has proposed several changes to its federal Housing Choice Voucher program. Significant changes include converting to a lottery waitlist, removing specific preferences and canceling the current waitlist.
A public hearing on the proposed changes will be held Wednesday, May 22, 2019 from 10-11:30 a.m. in the hearing room at the Sonoma County Community Development Commission offices, located at 1440 Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa. The current waitlist will close Friday, May 17, 2019 at 5 p.m. and remain closed until after the hearing.
The Housing Authority understands these proposals are substantial and wants your input. To ensure your comments are captured, or if you cannot attend the hearing, we encourage you to provide written comment prior to the hearing via email to email@example.com or mail to 1440 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, Attention: Martha Cheever. Comments can also be provided by calling (707) 565-1848.
If the proposed changes are approved, the current waitlist will be canceled. A new waitlist application period will open from July 1-31, 2019. Once the application period closes, staff will assign each application a lottery number and use randomized computer software to select 500 applications to place on the new waitlist.
Households on the waitlist can expect to receive service within one to two years. The waitlist will remain closed until all 500 households receive service, at which time the lottery will repeat. Applicants not selected in the lottery may reapply for the next one.
While many public housing authorities conduct waitlist lotteries, Sonoma County’s waitlist has remained open for almost 20 years, operating on a first-come, first-served basis. The list currently has more than 26,000 households. With about 300 vouchers becoming available each year, it would take 90 years to serve every household that is currently on the waitlist. Converting to a lottery will create an expectation of service that does not exist under the current structure.
The lottery system waitlist is one of several changes proposed to improve the current program. Another noteworthy change would remove a local preference that essentially blocks 18,000 waitlist families from receiving service by moving households that live, or work, in the Sonoma County service area ahead of those that do not – regardless of when they applied.
While administered locally, the Housing Choice Voucher program is open to all qualified applicants in the United States, regardless of location. The combination of a continuously open waitlist and the local preference effectively mean that only households already living, or working, in Sonoma County receive service – despite the program’s national reach. Removing this preference will create equity and allow the program to operate as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development intended.
The Sonoma County Housing Authority acknowledges that there are not enough vouchers for those in need and has proposed these changes to provide equitable and improved service. We realize you may have questions or concerns and want to collect your comments, which will be used to help inform the process.
The full draft of the proposed Housing Authority Administrative Plan is available for review online or in our office.
For questions or to leave a comment, call (707) 565-1848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing Authority Manager
Sonoma County Community Development Commission