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Whenever we publish these stories, we get emails and calls from people hoping to secure an apartment in the new building. Many tell us they’re in tough positions — sleeping in a car, dealing with steep rent hikes at their current home or anxious to return to the East Bay after getting priced out.
It’s not always easy knowing how to respond. We’re not housing providers, and we often cover development projects years away from opening. Residents also face numerous roadblocks to applying, and many don’t know where to start.
Reflecting on these questions, we saw how our publications could help people on the arduous hunt for affordable housing in Oakland and Berkeley. We published a guide, available online and in print, to take your first steps in the affordable housing process.
How we made the Affordable Housing Guide
Anyone who’s lived in the East Bay in recent years can attest to how quickly rents and home prices have increased. It’s hard to live comfortably here, and it doesn’t help that both Berkeley and Oakland have fallen behind on state targets for building affordable housing.
When subsidized housing does get built, the path to securing a spot can be confusing. There is no single place to find all the available options, resources and guidance on how to apply.
Here we’ve tried to compile practical information you need to get started on your search for an affordable home.
To put together this guide, we first asked people who’ve searched for affordable housing about the common questions that come up for them. We then spoke with Alameda County housing staff and people who work for nonprofits that operate subsidized housing to better understand the system and available resources.
We also interviewed people who’ve successfully navigated this process. Their stories of finding housing through many different methods are highlighted in the guide.
They told us that even if you do everything “right,” it can take months or years to get off a waitlist and get selected for a spot. It’s a challenging system, and we aimed to be realistic about what to expect.
Who should use this guide?
We hope many people find something useful in the Affordable Housing Guide.
Perhaps you’ve been whittling away your paycheck on rent but don’t realize you could be eligible for an affordable apartment. Maybe you’ve tried applying in the past but have given up after feeling overwhelmed by how complicated it can seem. Or you may live out of state and want to help a relative or friend who’s struggling.
This guide won’t address everyone’s needs or situation. It’s geared toward people who already have a stable place to live while applying for affordable housing. If you’re homeless or need emergency shelter or transitional housing, there is some applicable information in the guide, but a social worker can provide better assistance. You can also read our ongoing coverage of the East Bay housing and homelessness crisis at The Oaklandside and Berkeleyside.
Get in touch with us if you have suggestions or want to help distribute the guide
We hope our housing guide can evolve as readers give us feedback. We’ll update the guide when significant changes are affecting local housing policy, like the release of new area median income limits.
This resource differs slightly from most of the work Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside usually publishes. We typically run our content online only, but we also decided to print hard copies of this guide. It’s a shorter version of what you’ll find online, but the most critical resources are included. We made this decision partly because we know people of all different backgrounds need affordable housing in Alameda County, and we wanted our guide to be accessible to those who may not be comfortable navigating an online guide or don’t have reliable internet access.
We know many local organizations, programs and businesses serve people who may not read our news sites but could use the information in this guide. We will be distributing copies to locations throughout Berkeley and Oakland. Please email email@example.com if you would like a copy or a batch to distribute.
Whether you come across this guide online or out and about, we want your feedback.
In the meantime, we hope you find something here that helps.