You may have heard of the affordable housing lotteries in NYC. A couple of City agencies run these lotteries to place candidates in buildings across the five boroughs. Typically, real estate developers receive tax abatements and other incentives to allocate a percentage of their new buildings to affordable housing. Units in the lottery are rent-stabilized and usually in luxury amenity style buildings. This is what you need to know about participating in the lotteries:
1. Eligibility is based on the Area Median Income (AMI).
Every building has a different set of requirements depending on where it is, how big it is, and the agreement established with the City. Some apartments may be reserved for people who make 50% of the AMI, while others may be reserved for applicants who make 130% of the AMI. For example, if the AMI of a given neighborhood is $80,000 then 50% of the AMI is $40,000 and 130% is $104,000. Below is a matrix of an open lottery in the Bronx. Essentially all applicants need to make 130% of the median income. A single person applying for a studio would qualify if they made between $98,915-$128,570. Their rent would be $2,885 a month. Every lottery has different bands and requirements. Renters should check the NYC Housing Connect website to track the lotteries.
2. Some Lotteries Have a “Community Preference” or other requirements.
Some buildings will have a percentage of apartments reserved only for applicants who are from that community. This is a way to make sure that residents in the neighborhood are the ones benefiting from the new housing construction. There have been criticisms of this qualifier and some feel it makes getting a spot in the lottery even harder. Some buildings also have units reserved for City employees, disabled folks or seniors. Be sure to read the fine print of each lottery.
3. The application is thorough!
Renters can submit their applications online or by mail. The application is extensive. You’ll need things like tax papers, how much money you make, and a proof of identity like a driver’s license. Don’t waste time applying for lotteries you don’t qualify for, and double check your info because if you get selected the Housing Connect office will verify everything you put on your application (i.e. calling your employer, calling the bank etc.).
4. This process requires patience.
We’ve heard from renters who have waited longer than a decade for a call. Others have got in right away. There’s no clear way to get in, but renters who have been successful have shared that they applied repeatedly and always had their paperwork in order. You also have to be ready to move fast if you get a call!
Understandably, renters are frustrated with the lack of affordable housing in NYC and some feel that even the lottery rents are not reasonable. The program isn’t perfect, but it can be a great way to secure stabilized housing in an amenity building. The lottery is competitive and can be a tiring process, but it doesn’t hurt to get your name in the hat.
Are you apartment-hunting? Be sure to browse affordable and rent-stabilized listings on openigloo.