There's nearly a decade-long wait for public housing in Oakland, per housing authority

Melanie Woodrow Image
Friday, May 5, 2023
Oakland's public housing waitlist is 9 years long: Housing Authority
New analysis of data from HUD found households that received assistance last year had waited about 9 years for housing in Oakland.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An ABC-Owned Television Stations analysis of data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that households that received assistance last year were waiting for housing for years.

For years, Larry Sproles says he took care of elderly Alameda residents, paying just a few hundred dollars for a room to rent in exchange for his work.

"I've been on my own since 15," said Sproles.

Despite carrying a heavy set of keys, Sproles doesn't have a key to a home.

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"No house key, nope, used to about a year ago," said Sproles.

He had been staying at a shelter at Christ Episcopal Church but it recently closed for the season until the fall.

"It was a great gift, I mean there were so many cold, rainy nights," said Sproles.

Now Sproles doesn't have a place to stay.

"You stay in the bar until two o'clock in the morning just to stay warm and keep your bicycle or your telephone charged up," said Sproles.

"You set up your tent at four in the morning, three in the morning in the cold rain, cloth tent, leaked and you try to go to sleep without somebody coming by and trying to steal your brand new e-bike that I bought for $1,300 bucks or just pick on you, whatever," he continued.

Sproles says he's on a public housing waitlist.

"Just for about a month or two," he said.

The ABC Owned Television Stations analysis found that households that received assistance last year had waited more than two years on average.

In dozens of counties, average wait times were over five years.

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"We are absolutely in a crisis," said Patricia Wells, Oakland Housing Authority Executive Director

Wells says there's nearly a decade-long wait in Oakland.

"It has for us been about a nine-year wait for those families who are being served at this moment," said Wells.

"It's not right, it's heartbreaking," she explained.

Oakland recently opened and closed its waitlist for public housing this past January. The last time it had been opened was in 2014.

Wells says on average, Oakland families stay in public housing for seven years.

"The availability of public housing is based upon when families move out and open up units that are very static," said Wells.

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She says the wait time in Oakland for housing choice vouchers, which provide a subsidy of up to 70% of rent in the open market is seven years.

Wells says the Oakland Housing Choice Voucher waitlist was last opened in 2011 and 303 people remain on the waitlist.

"The need for affordable housing is paramount," said Wells.

ABC7 News I-Team reporter Melanie Woodrow asked Wells, "What do you think is the solution here?"

"The solution is cities, counties, federal government, our private sector working together to speed up the ability for the production of new affordable units," said Wells.

"It would be nice if everybody wasn't so greedy and raising the rent up so high that a person can't afford it," said Sproles.

Sproles estimates the least expensive one-bedroom apartment he's found in Alameda is $1,850 a month.

"So you need first month's rent, last month's rent, security deposit, a job that makes that much per month," said Sproles.

While he figures out his next move, he says he likes being in the park.

"I just sit there and listen to music and put myself in a good mood and try to think of something to do better today that I didn't do yesterday and just hope," said Sproles.

Oakland's public housing is at about 97% occupancy. The occupancy rate fluctuates as families move out and the units are renovated.

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