Income Restricted Apartments

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Written By Alina Sokirko

In New York City, the rent is exceedingly high, so the local government incentivized landlords to offer apartments at a discounted rate. That’s why income-restricted apartments are in such high demand. 

What are income-restricted apartments?

Income-restricted apartments are residences rented out at a price below the market rate. These apartments are part of a public housing initiative meant to give people the ability to find affordable housing. 

As the name suggests, there are income restrictions on who can rent them. Usually, the maximum rent is based on the person’s income. In NYC, this means income-restricted apartments will allow you to pay 30 percent of your income on rent at most.  

Apartment communities can have a whole building of income-restricted apartments or individual units in an otherwise market-rent building. This usually happens when a landlord receives a tax break from the city in return for offering a certain amount of income-restricted apartments. 

How were income-restricted apartments developed?

During the Great Depression and after, the Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidized apartments and housing for people who otherwise wouldn’t afford shelter. 

The fundamental determination was that there needs to be a maximum percentage of money people pay on rent. That max was 25 percent of your income when this program first started. Now, it’s 30 percent. 

While the federal government started income-restricted apartments as a program, it’s now administered on state and local levels. So now, there are a wide range of different government groups and nonprofits in charge of this offering.

How do you qualify for income-restricted apartments?

Income-restricted apartments qualify you by comparing your income and the median income of the neighborhood you want to live in. Most New York apartments that have income restrictions start at 80 percent of the median income and go down to 20 percent. 

It’s important to realize that there are different tiers of income restriction active in New York. These include:

  • Middle income – 121 to 165 percent of median income
  • Moderate income – 120 to 81 percent of median income
  • Low income – 51 to 80 percent of median income
  • Very low income – 31 to 50 percent of median income
  • Extremely low income – 0 to 30 percent of median income

Additional qualifications can also apply, such as asset restrictions and debt restrictions. As a result, it’s best to discuss this with a HUD officer. You have to be at least 18 years of age to get an income-restricted apartment in New York.

How much rent will you pay in an income-restricted apartment?

This isn’t easy to gauge in a New York setting because each apartment can have its own pay scale, but you can find income-restricted apartments for $1,000 – $4,500 in NYC. It’s best to ask your local HUD office or the apartment building’s admin to determine the basic rent for you.

How do you apply for an income-restricted apartment?

It’s a bit of a crazy process, but we’re going to go through it step by step.

1. Go To the NYC Housing Connect Website

Start by logging onto NYC’s HousingConnect website. You will be able to see an entire section for income-restricted apartments as well as income-restricted co-ops. From there, you can see what’s available.

2. Apply to multiple lotteries

The income-restricted housing in NYC is done via a lottery system, so you need to be selected at random from a group of applicants. This is done to help fairness and to avoid the problems that a “first come, first serve” basis can cause. To max out your chances, apply to multiple lotteries within the area you want to live in.

3. Wait to be selected

While you wait, you can apply to even more lotteries. It can take several months for a single application to be approved and processed. As a result, patience and a keen eye for new openings is a good move.

4. Sign the lease

Once you are selected, fill out the documentation and sign the lease. You may be asked to provide documents supporting the claims about your income. After everything on the lease is approved, you can move in.

How long does it take to get an income-restricted apartment in New York City?

New York has an exceptionally high demand for affordable housing, so the waitlists can be huge. If you need affordable housing, the best thing you can do is start applying as soon as you can. 

There is no set number of months you can wait to get an income-restricted apartment. The truth is that there are people who wait for years. Thankfully, this is not the norm. Most people get housing between 2 to 10 months.

There’s a lot to be said about being your own advocate here. It can vary greatly, and at times, it’s best to search through the Housing Connect and keep an eye out for apartments with unusually low rents.

How can you speed things up?

There are several ways to ensure that you get an income-restricted apartment sooner rather than later. This is what you should do:

  • Apply, apply, apply. The more apartments you apply to, the faster you will find one with which you can work. 
  • Make a point of having documents ready. This includes bank statements, proof that others live with you, and documents showing that you live in New York City. 
  • Consider trying alternative housing options in New York. If you are in serious dire straits, you might be able to qualify for another housing program—including emergency housing. Contact your social worker for more information.
  • Check to see if you qualify for NYCHA priority housing. The NYC Housing Authority has special priority tracks for people that demonstrate that they need public housing immediately. NYCHA housing takes only 30 days to obtain, so it may be worth looking there if you are Low or Extremely Low Income.

Do you have to be a citizen of New York City to get on the city’s income-restricted apartment lottery?

It would be an amazing thing to be able to move to New York City with the help of NYC’s HousingConnect, but that’s not doable. This system is generally reserved for people who already have a home address in New York City. 

Even if you aren’t sure whether you qualify, give it a shot!

It’s important to remember that your housing situation will be unique simply because it is a matter of living in New York. The median income in all five boroughs is going to be well above the national average, which means that you might be able to qualify for help even if it would be out of the question in most other parts of the country. 

This is one of the only cities where low-income housing can still mean that you earn $100,000 a year in some neighborhoods. So, even if you think you earn too much to qualify, give it a shot. You might be surprised at what you can get.