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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Alma Place closes waiting list Alma Place closes waiting list (August 14, 2002)

Long wait for studio apartments may force some to look elsewhere

by Rachel Metz

Prospective downtown Palo Alto residents hoping to score a spot in the Alma Place low-income apartments can face waits of more than two years before receiving the go-ahead to move into one of the building's studio apartments.

This week, Palo Alto Housing Corporation officials said the waiting list is closed, with more than 100 hopefuls stagnant on the list. Judy Catambay, Alma Place supervisor and director of property management for the housing corporation, said the waiting list will be briefly reopened for a few weeks in September and only once a year thereafter, pending review of the current list.

"When we first opened in '98, a million people wanted housing so the list was very long then . . . And last year we had to close it because people at the end of the list will be waiting forever," Catambay said.

Alma Place includes 106 units -- 105 for residents and one for a building staff member. The building fills the housing needs of single locals whose annual incomes don't exceed $28,000. Alma Place also serves some single parents with one child aged 18 or below.

The development operates at full capacity and housing corporation. Executive Director Marlene Prendergast said the wait can be unpredictable. She said the housing corp. which also runs 18 additional local affordable housing properties, sometimes closes waiting lists if housing hopefuls can not get in within the next two years.

The number of people moving out of the development fluctuates, so there is no set pace at which new residents will move off the waiting list and into the building.

"I think the main thing is to realize unless you're on a waiting list, there isn't much hope at all. So even though the waiting list can be long and discouraging it's better to get on them than not. You never know who's ahead of you and where they might move in the meantime," Prendergast said.

She said she would not discourage people from putting their names on the Alma Place waiting list.

But, Cantambay said depending on prospective residents' life situations, they may want to consider looking elsewhere.

"A lot of people on the list, their goal is to live at Alma Place so they're pretty persistent about waiting and a lot of people, even though they're waiting a year or so, they end up moving in," Cantambay said.

"In some cases they might work in Palo Alto . . . or they were brought up in Palo Alto. A lot of people that were brought up in Palo Alto really want to remain in the area."

She said some people live with friends or family while waiting for an Alma Place unit. In extreme circumstances people have stayed at local hotels.

In June the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County awarded its first Prometheus Prize to Alma Place for the development's service as an outstanding affordable housing development. The award also recognizes Alma Place's architecture, design and comes with a $10,000 cash prize for residents' services at Alma Place.

"Alma Place is just what we wanted it to be, which is really nice housing for low-income wage earners in the downtown," Prendergast said.


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