The waiting list for some of public housing in Contra Costa County will open to new applicants for a week starting today.

Contra Costa's housing authority is accepting pre-applications for its two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom units starting at 8 a.m. Applications can be submitted online until 4:59 p.m. Sept. 29.

The first 2,000 eligible applications for each size home will be placed on waiting lists.

This is the first time in almost three years that the housing authority has accepted new applicants for the program's multiple-bedroom units, said Beth Campbell, the county's director of managed housing programs.

The waiting list for public housing had been full for some time, but the number on the list has declined recently as people have moved out of the area or found other housing, Campbell said. Some may have been found ineligible or found homes through the program, added Joseph Villarreal, executive director of the county's housing authority.

The public housing program differs from the Section 8 federal voucher program because public housing requires the applicant to live in government-subsidized housing developments. Section 8 allows those with the federal vouchers to live anywhere that accepts them.

The county owns and manages 1,174 public housing units located in Richmond, San Pablo, Rodeo, Martinez, Pittsburg, Oakley, Brentwood and Antioch. Tenants in public housing pay no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.

Low-income residents tend to prefer Section 8 to the public-housing option, Villarreal said. However, the "desperation level" is such that people are calling the housing authority looking for any kind of help, he said.

The need is great for all types of affordable housing, said Janet Kennedy, Antioch's housing coordinator. Her office gets calls from people at least twice a week inquiring about housing options, she said.

"There's a lot more stress and pressure across the whole housing market," Villarreal said.

Opening the public housing list "gives people another opportunity for a housing option that isn't usually available," Kennedy said.

To qualify for those units, a three-person household must have a gross annual income of no more than $58,000. For four people, the qualifying limit is $64,400, while a five-person household must earn no more than $69,600.

Applicants that meet certain criteria -- including county residents, the disabled and those who have been displaced from their homes -- are given priority.

The only factors beyond income that eliminate an applicant from eligibility for public housing are a criminal record for distribution or use of methamphetamine or being registered as a sex offender, Campbell said. Other crimes on a person's record would not affect their chances of getting housing, she said.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

TO APPLY
To to apply for the public housing list, visit www.hacccwaitinglist.com. Applications must be completed online. For more information on the county's housing programs, visit www.contracostahousing.org or call 925-957-8084.