In Oakland, as in many cities, more people are in need of help paying rent than there is money to go around. The need hasn't decreased, which is why the Oakland Housing Authority is expecting as many as 100,000 people to ask for Section 8 vouchers when the agency begins taking applications later this month.

"We know that our families have been hard hit. We know there is a large need out there," Housing Authority Executive Director Eric Johnson said.

In the end, only a fraction -- about 10,000 -- will make it onto the waiting list.

More than 11,000 Oakland families currently receive Section 8 subsidies, according to the Housing Authority's figures. A family of three, for example, whose annual income does not exceed $40,650 could qualify for the federal program. The family would be responsible for paying 30 percent of their monthly income for rent and the voucher would make up the rest.

This year, the agency is only accepting applications online at www.oakha.org beginning at 8 a.m. Jan 25.

Candidates can use any computer, including those available at nine Oakland public library branches that will offer computers and assistance during normal library hours. Help and computers will also be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at kiosks set up in the Oakland Housing Authority's West District office, 935 Union St., and at Lockwood Gardens, at 1327 65th Ave.

The deadline to file is 5 p.m. Jan. 29. The date or time of an application will not affect the person's position on the waiting list, Johnson said.

Eligible applicants will be selected using an automated lottery system. Housing Authority staff will make sure applicants' income matches the maximum allowed for Section 8 housing, and then rank the candidates according to federal and agency criteria, which includes military status, age, and whether the applicant is a resident of Oakland or disabled. The more criteria the person meets, the higher he or she is ranked.

The agency won't know how many vouchers ultimately will be available until later in the process. First, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development decides how many vouchers to release. Once the Oakland Housing Authority receives the vouchers, its staff will check how many people on the waiting list still qualify. The whole process can take years, Johnson said.

The last time the agency took applications for Section 8 help was 2006, Johnson said. The last candidates to qualify are only now being notified.

"There are always more families than we have money to serve," he said.

applications
For more information, call
510-874-1500 or go to www.oakha.org.
Forms are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Cantonese. Recorded information in these languages is available at 510-777-4144.
Libraries that will provide computers: Asian Branch, 338 Ninth St.; Cesar E. Chavez, 3301 E. 12th St.; Dimond Branch, 3565 Fruitvale Ave.; Eastmont Branch, Eastmont Town Center, 7200 Bancroft Ave.; Elmhurst Branch, 1427 88th Ave.; Golden Gate Branch, 5606 San Pablo Ave; Main Library, 125 14th St.; Melrose Branch, 4805 Foothill Blvd.; West Branch, 1801 Adeline St.