Visiting open houses and preparing bids over asking price are part and parcel of the Bay Area house hunt, but for 60 people who want to own a below-market-rate condonimium in East Palo Alto, their home search came down to a lottery on Monday, July 15.
Held in City Hall, the lottery drawing was for a one-bedroom condo at 1765 E. Bayshore Road made available through East Palo Alto's Below Market Rate Program, with the help of The Bay Area Affordable Homeownership Alliance (BAAHA) and EPA Can Do, a nonprofit organization that aims to create more affordable housing.
At 950 square feet, the condominium is being sold for $177,353.
One hundred applicants applied for the property; 60 were deemed eligible. The lottery was to determine the priority order of those 60, each of whom will have to complete more paperwork and go through additional screening. If the person at the top of the priority list is deemed ineligible, the next person in line will get a chance at the property.
Gail Wilkerson, a resident of East Palo Alto since 1955, attended the meeting on behalf of her son Marlon Moore, whom she entered in the lottery. Moore was born and raised in East Palo Alto and currently lives in a rent-controlled apartment. On Monday evening, he was selected as 29th on the priority list.
"I don't like this lottery process, but I'm glad they have some kind of process because you can't buy anything in East Palo Alto nowadays," Wilkerson said, adding that she thinks people who have lived in the city for more than 20 years should be prioritized ahead of those who haven't been in the area as long.
According to Walter Zhoveboff, administrator director of BAAHA, applicants were given greater chances in the lottery based on certain criteria: household income under 60% of San Mateo County median income, first-time homebuyer, current local resident and current local worker.
"Someone who has four preferences will have four tickets in the box," Zhovreboff said.
According to BAAHA's website, the selected household is required to "have a combination of down-payment and creditworthiness to qualify financially to purchase the condo and must take an eight hour HUD-certified (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) homebuyer workshop."
The lottery drawing attracted 15 of the 60 eligible applicants. The room was filled with nervousness and excitement, with the audience clapping every time the announcer called out the name of someone who was present.
Halley Crumb, another longtime resident of East Palo Alto, echoed Wilkerson's sentiments about longtime residents.
"I think that the lottery is unfair for those people who have been living here their entire life and meet all four preferences," said Crumb, who was picked as 50th on the priority list. "We need more below-market-rate housing, and although I appreciate this process, the city needs to do better."
More information on the lottery eligibility requirements can be found at myhomegateway.org.