The city’s affordable housing lotteries are notoriously competitive, but new data shows some progress: in the most recent fiscal year that ended in June, 6,173 applicants were approved for a unit through the lottery system, up nearly 24 percent from the fiscal year prior. But the approval process took longer for applicants than the year before, and the odds remain tough.
This story was produced by student reporters in the City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative For Youth (CLARIFY).
After searching city housing lotteries for nearly 10 years, speaking to several politicians for help in her quest and being waitlisted for over 50 apartments in the midst of a local housing crisis, 33-year-old Gisele Santana is tired.
“I feel like I’m not being heard,” Santana, a single mother of two kids who works two jobs, said of her hunt for an affordable apartment in New York City, where rents have hit record highs in recent months.
She’s not alone. Since 2014, the city’s affordable housing lotteries have received tens of millions of applications from New Yorkers in search of housing, but just more than 29,000 people actually moved into new or rehabbed affordable homes via the lottery system between then and the end of 2021, city data shows.
“I don’t believe in luck, I believe in my hard work,” Santana said of the difficult odds.
The city’s affordable housing lotteries are notoriously competitive, but the city’s latest Mayor’s Manage Report shows some signs of progress: in the most recent fiscal year that ended in June, 6,173 applicants were approved for a unit through the lottery system, up nearly 24 percent from the year prior. The number of homeless households that moved into affordable apartments through lotteries also increased last year: More than 2,200, a record number of placements and up from 1,921 in fiscal year 2021, according to the city.
The uptick was because “more affordable units were created in prior years and recently made available for occupancy,” the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which administers the lottery, said in its summary of the data.
But the lottery approval process also took longer last year, with a median time of 177 days, or around six months, for affordable projects to select and approve applicants for move-ins, up slightly from the year before. Less than a third of applicants who scored lottery units were approved within six months, the data shows.
|Performance indicators for the city’s affordable housing lottery by fiscal year||FY20||FY21||FY22|
|Applicants approved for a new construction unit through the lottery||5,559||4,993||6,173|
|Homeless households moved into a newly constructed unit||410||1,468||1,600|
|Homeless households moved into a re-rental unit||342||453||603|
|Percent of lottery projects that completed applicant approvals within three months||12%||24%||26%|
|Percent of lottery projects that completed applicant approvals within six months||32%||54%||52%|
|Percent of lottery projects that took longer than two years to complete applicant approvals||7%||4%||NA|
|Median time to complete applicant approvals for a lottery project (days)||246||168||177|
|Percent of lottery units with applicants approved within three months||46%||56%||32%|
|Percent of lottery units with applicants approved within six months||70%||73%||51%|
|Percent of lottery units with applicants approved after two years||1%||2%||NA|
|Median time to approve an applicant for a lottery unit (days)||104||88||176|
|Median time to lease-up a homeless placement set-aside new construction unit (days)||115||106||203|
|Median time to lease-up a homeless placement voluntary new construction unit (days)||210||215||214|
HPD attributed the longer times to “lease-up process challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and delays in advertising and approval processes following the launch of Housing Connect,” the new online portal for housing lottery applicants that the city launched in 2020, but which still needed “refinements and improvements,” more recently, the MMR says.
“HPD is committed to connecting households in need with affordable housing as quickly as possible,” the agency said in the report. “As the City continues to implement its goals of increasing efficient access to services and shaping government processes to prioritize the resident experience, HPD will be examining all additional factors affecting lease-up timing for lottery and homeless set-aside units.”
The city defines affordable housing as units in which rent costs one-third or less of a household’s income, with specific eligibility requirements based on Area Median Income (AMI) levels determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
But as stated, such units aren’t easy to come by: According to The National Low Income Housing…