A Complete Insight into the NYC Affordable Housing Lottery

By: ROS Team May 1, 2021

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It’s well-known that it’s expensive living in New York City.  Lower-income residents struggle to find affordable housing on their annual salaries. The government has put initiatives in place to help ease the housing burden by way of affordable housing.

To do that, the government guarantees that affordable housing units are available to low-income families throughout the city.  To qualify for one of these units, applicants must “win” the housing lottery.

What Is Affordable Housing?

According to Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), affordable housing means a residence that costs no more than 30% of the individual’s income.  Area median income (AMI) is used to determine the prices for each unit.  Almost half of the people who occupy them earn below the AMI.

✔ NYC Housing Connect

NYC Housing Connect is the portal residents use to apply for affordable housing. In 2020, the site was relaunched to make it more user-friendly.  With its relaunch came more housing lotteries than in previous years.

Unfortunately, previous applicant data didn’t transfer to the new system, so anyone who applied for the housing lottery in the old system had to reapply.

✔ The Mitchell-Lama Program

The Mitchell-Lama program is aimed at serving middle-income families and has provided nearly 130,000 affordable housing units over the last two decades. HPD plans to streamline the Mitchell-Lama program through NYC Housing Connect in the future.

How to Apply

The application process for the affordable housing lottery is managed through NYC Housing Connect. Interested residents must first create an account using a name and a valid email address.

Applicants then provide the annual income and employment information for everyone who will occupy the home. Applicants should have the following documents on hand when completing the application in case the information is needed:

✔ State ID
✔ Social Security Card
✔ Proof of Income
✔ Most Recent Pay Stubs
✔ Bank Statement
✔ Tax Returns
✔ Document if there is an additional Source of Income
✔ Current rent Statement

The turnaround time once the application is submitted varies, but it often takes several months to find out the outcome of your application. The system allows applicants to track the status of their applications online.

What Happens After You Apply

Applicants should apply to as many different housing lotteries as possible. This will increase the chances of “winning” an affordable housing unit.

Applicants are then subject to an interview during which officials verify the information included on the application and ask any follow-up questions. An interview is a screening tool used to further determine eligibility.

If HPD is satisfied that the applicant qualifies, the agency will begin the process of deeming the applicant eligible for affordable housing and will begin locating available housing units.

All interviews don’t result in housing, but an applicant who is denied in one housing lottery may very well get accepted in another.

Tips For Maximize Your Chance of Winning the Apartment Lottery

✔ Apply to more than one housing lottery.
✔ Don’t rule out housing lotteries for available units in your current neighborhood.
✔ Ensure your NYC Housing Connect profile remains up-to-date.
✔ Make sure you opt-in to having your application considered for every affordable apartment lottery for which you qualify.

The Flip Side of the Housing Lottery

There are other options available for finding affordable housing.  If you’re not interested in participating in the apartment lottery or have been denied, explore the possibility of living with a roommate or finding an apartment to sublet.

The Bottom Line

The affordable housing lottery grants low-income New Yorkers an opportunity to live in an apartment that won’t break the bank.

But keep in mind that this is a very lengthy process, and the odds of winning an affordable apartment in the lottery are nearly 1 out of 500. Get creative and seek out low-cost alternatives for housing.

Read Also: Find Affordable Apartment in NYC