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How To Get Affordable Housing Through NYC Housing Connect

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart

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New York City is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Everything here is pricier--the food, the drinks, and of course, real estate.

With rent prices often outpacing the wages of a typical NYC family, the city created a special organization that keeps housing affordable for typical families.

Most people who are new to the Big Apple might not be aware of all the resources available to them.

If you want to rent an apartment or just get help finding affordable housing in your borough, this guide is for you.


How to Get Affordable Housing

  • NYC Housing Connect is a special municipal program that gives low-middle income families access to affordable housing, whether is it rentals or sales.
  • Housing and programs available through Housing Connect includes rent-stabilized apartments, low-cost homes for sale, sliding scale apartments, affordable co-ops, and senior housing programs.
  • 80/20 lotteries make up much of what Housing Connect offers. These are luxury apartment buildings where 20% of the units are designated for low-middle income individuals or families.
  • Applicants must be chosen from a lottery and pass an interview in order to be offered an affordable unit.
  • Tenants must also re-certify each year for their affordable rental unit.
  • Affordable co-op units are rarely available these days and opportunities for these units seldom come up.

What Is the NYC Housing Connect?

The NYC Housing Connect is a portal provided through the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) that offers low- and middle-income families affordable houses for sale (as well as rentals) through the use of a random draw lottery.

It is currently one of the largest and easiest ways for families to find affordable housing in the city.

The NYC Housing Connect offers:

  • Rent Stabilized Apartments. If you want to rent but don’t want to worry about large increases to your bill, you need to check this site out.
  • Cheap Homes For Sale. Many of the homes are foreclosures, public property, or simply homes that are low in price.
  • Sliding Scale Apartment Prices. If you want to live in a nice neighborhood but can’t afford the rent, NYC Housing Connect is there to help you.
  • Affordable Co-Ops. Though it’s a bit rarer, applicants can also find co-ops for sale on the housing connect.
  • Senior Housing Programs. They offer low-income rent increase exemption that makes it easy for the elderly to keep their homes.

What programs can be found on NYC HPD and Housing Connect?

There are several ways that working through Connect can help you, mostly in the form of different programs.

The most popular programs include:

  • Affordable Rental Lottery. This is considered to be the most basic service that NYC Housing Connect offers. It’s also the most popular program on the website, with thousands of people finding rentals using it.
  • The Mitchell-Lama Program. This is a specialized lottery program geared towards affordable homes and co-ops for sale.
  • Senior Rent Increase Exemption. If you’re a senior citizen who earns less than $50,000, you might be able to get your rent increases exempted.

What Are 80/20 Buildings?

80/20 buildings are the most common type of apartments you’ll find on the NYC Housing Connect.

This program requires developers who are working on luxury apartment buildings to offer 20 percent of all their apartments to low- and middle-income housing.

Contrary to common misconception, 80/20 buildings are not project housing.

Rather, they are apartments in luxury buildings offered to regular families as a way to help bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

That being said, the HPD has quite a number of programs available different programs, including entire buildings of low or middle-income units.

You can get a partial up-to-date list of apartments here of some lottery deadlines and buildings that have rolling applications.

How Do You Apply For Housing On The NYC Housing Connect?

The Housing Connect uses a waitlist to offer families and individuals rentals on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Both the Mitchell-Lama Program and the standard rental application follow a similar pattern.

Here’s what you need to do.

See if you qualify for a lottery ticket.

The housing connect has income limits for people who want to get a rental through the lottery.

This chart will give you an idea of whether or not your income levels qualify you for a ticket.

Start your search.

Search for 80/20 (affordable housing) buildings you want to apply to.

Along with the buildings that are advertised on the connect, developers who are currently building homes also advertise affordable housing projects at their construction sites.

A quick walk through your neighborhood, looking at real estate publications, and a fast search online will give you at least one or two options to choose from.

That being said, the more apartments you apply for, the better off you’ll be.

Put together your profile on Housing Connect.

This is your first step to getting the apartment you want.

Once you put together a profile and apply for your apartments, a developer will send you a packet to fill out.

Waiting for an affordable housing unit.

Once you hand the application back in, your lottery will be assigned a number at random.

The number you get gives you your place in line for the apartment that you choose.

You are competing with tens of thousands of other applicants for a small number of spots, so you may not be selected.

Don't be discouraged if you don't hear anything or weren't selected right away.

There is a waitlist.

If you’re selected, you will be asked to go to an interview.

If you got this far, great job! You’re unbelievably lucky.

Here’s the hard part, though: your interview. You will be asked to furnish pay stubs, tax returns, multiple forms of ID, as well as your current rent’s lease.

Housing Connect has a full list of the materials you’ll need to present at the interview.

Preparing for the interview.

You will be asked a variety of questions about your job, activities, as well as your stability.

Your job here is to give off an aura of stability and maturity. They don’t want tenants who can’t keep a steady job or pay rent!

Once you pass you will have a home visit.

The developers in question will visit your current home.

This is done as a way to reduce the number of fraudulent applications and to confirm your current address.

Sign the lease.

Once the home visit is done, you are approved and you can sign the lease.

Read on: What to Expect at an Apartment Lease Signing in New York.

Why Was My NYC Housing Connect Application Declined?

Though the lottery is more convenient than it used to be, getting approved for an affordable apartment or home isn’t that easy.

Along with long wait times, developers can be fairly picky with renting applications.

That said, there are some reasons that are more common grounds for rejection than others. These include:

  • Bad Credit. This is the most common reason for application rejection. Before you apply, fix your credit!
  • Bad Application. If you lied about your current home address, didn’t bring all your paperwork, or otherwise seemed to fudge numbers, you might get denied.
  • Bad Home Visit. You can get rejected if you refuse a home visit, or if the visitor finds that your home is in a bad state of affairs.
  • Bad Interview. Sometimes, you just leave a bad (unstable) impression on developers after the interview. If this is the case, they might deny your application.

Read on: How to Improve Your Credit Score to Get Approved for an Apartment in New York.

How Long Does The Waitlist For NYC Housing Connect Take?

This can vary wildly from building to building.

Brand new developments might take as little as a matter of weeks for the waitlist portion of the application process to pull through.

Older buildings, however, can take years for a waitlist to clear.

The waitlist waiting time issue is the main reason why real estate experts urge people to start applying for affordable housing as soon as they can, and why most people apply for multiple apartments at a time.

Read on: How to Find an Apartment with Low Income.

Special Situations: Students, Growing Families And More

Who Can Use The NYC Housing Connect?

Anyone who currently resides in New York City can apply on the site. (Yes, you need a residential card or ID to prove this.)

Though everyone can apply, the NYC Housing Connect tends to favor families and individuals who currently live on a low- to medium- level budget.

Who Qualifies For Subsidized Housing In New York City?

You’d be surprised, but most people who live in New York City will be able to qualify for some kind of housing lottery.

The typical income range maxes out at 145% of the median income for the area.

Depending on how many people will be living in the apartment, this can easily exceed $100,000 a year.

That being said, many developments favor people who are considered to be low income by New York City Standards.

How Is Household Income Determined?

Household income is determined by putting together all the forms of income, from all the members of the household.

This means that courts take into consideration:

  • Salaries
  • Freelance Income
  • Alimony
  • Child Support
  • Income from Investments
  • Business Income

If I Was Taken To Housing Court, Am I Disqualified?

This is a sticky situation! Technically, going to Housing Court is not a disqualifier.

Though it is a serious red flag for apartment developers, you still can apply and attain affordable housing through the lottery.

Read on: How to Get an Apartment with an Eviction on Record.

If you have any Housing Court issues, it’s important to be able to offer an explanation about the circumstances surrounding your problem.

If it’s deemed a reasonable explanation, you still have a decent shot at housing.

That being said, if you currently have judgments against you, that will be a disqualifier unless you clear them up immediately.

Read on: What to Do if You Get an Eviction Notice in New York.

Are There Any Specialty Situations That Can Increase Your Chances Of Getting Subsidized Housing?

Believe it or not, there are.

Many developments set aside apartments for people who:

  • Are Disabled. You need to have a documented disability in order to qualify for this.
  • Veterans/Armed Forces Members. In most cases, you will need to furnish proof and also be honorably discharged.
  • Are Municipal Employees. Your service to the city won’t go unnoticed!

If any of these conditions apply to you, mention it in your application. It could bump you up a couple of steps.

Can You Get Kicked Out Of Affordable Housing If You Start To Make More Than The Limits?

Nope! Once you’ve been approved for an apartment, the developers cannot kick you out.

The only way that you are going to leave the apartment is if you choose to leave--or if the courts decide to evict you for a breach of contract.

Can College Students Get Affordable Housing Through The Lottery?

Unfortunately, the NYC Housing Connect lottery doesn’t allow full-time college students to enter for rent-stabilized apartments.

If you want to attend college and have a home that is available in the lottery, you will only be able to go part-time.

If You Have A New Addition To The Family, Will You Have To Alert Your Management Company?

First off, mazel tov!

Secondly, yes, you will have to alert the management company in charge of your 80/20 rental as well as NYC’s Housing Preservation and Development department.

Understanding NYC Housing Connect’s Recertification Process

Getting the apartment is the big battle, but that doesn’t mean the work is done once you sign the lease.

Every year, people who have subsidized housing will have to undergo a recertification process proving that the people who got the lottery are still living in the home.

The process can vary from district to district, but there are still some similarities between all of them.

Recertification usually means that you will need to furnish pay stubs, recent utility bills, and other paperwork proving that you still reside there.

Recertification is only mandated for affordable rentals.

If you own a co-op or if you own a home in the New York City area, then you won’t need to recertify anything.

What Happens If You Don’t Recertify Your Subsidized Apartment?

It depends on what your lease agreement and your borough’s laws say.

In many cases, this is considered to be a breach of contract and can be grounds for court-ordered eviction.

It’s just smart to keep up with the laws!

NYC Housing Connect Alternatives

If the lottery hasn’t been good to you, but you still are in need of affordable housing, there are other ways to get what you need.

The New York State Housing Authority has other programs that are similar to the Housing Connect but focus more on the purchasing aspect of housing.

The Mitchell-Lama Program

If you weren’t quite able to fit the bill for low-income housing or just haven’t been able to get picked for the lottery, the next best thing would be the Mitchell-Lama Program.

This is a specialized program that offers both rentals and co-ops that are geared towards moderate to middle-income people.

Hoping to avoid the lottery aspect?

You’re out of luck.

Much like the regular Housing Connect, the Mitchell-Lama Program is a lottery.

However, the listings are different from the regular connect, you can see what the latest number they accepted, as well as details about the rentals.

Prices in the Mitchell-Lama Program are slightly higher than what you would get otherwise. However, it’s well worth the money and still affordable for what you’re getting.

Breaking Ground Housing

If you have a disability or are in a dire situation, then you might want to contact Breaking Ground. This is a NYC-bound organization that specializes in ending homelessness (and preventing it) through the use of ADA-accessible, highly supportive networks, and quality housing.

TheBreaking Ground organization offers both permanent and transitional housing.

So, if you’re at a crossroads, this is a great choice to consider.

Housing Development Fund Corporation Cooperatives

Fans of co-ops might be surprised to know that New York City actually has a program that offers co-ops for people with low incomes.

It’s called the HDFC, and yes, the co-ops are also given out with financing terms.

There are literally thousands of co-ops in the HDFC plan, and they’re all at least partially funded by the city.

However, they are not run by New York City’s housing groups.

Rather, they’re run by individual committees, just like a typical co-op would be.

There sometimes won’t be a lottery associated with HDFC co-ops, but that doesn’t mean that getting one will be easy.

There will still be loops to jump through in order to get this type of housing, especially since reselling your co-op can be a massively profitable option.

The biggest drawbacks are the standards you need to meet.

The finance standards are very rigid, often maxing out at 165 percent of an area’s median income.

You might also need to work with an HDFC-specialized counselor to get the co-op you want.

NYCHA

The New York City Housing Authority is another alternative that you might want to consider, but only if all other options have proven fruitless.

This is also known as public housing, and is recognized for having extraordinarily long wait times—sometimes spanning years!

This is something that is usually only reserved for people who just got out of a shelter. Many restrictions come into play, so you may want to rethink this.

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