Affordable housing is a major concern for many New Yorkers. But unfortunately, there aren’t enough affordable units as there are residents who need them. So, to make the system as fair as possible, the city created devised the NYC Housing lottery. This system allows qualified New York City residents to enter a pool of other apartment hunters looking for affordable housing and have a chance to win a cost-effective unit. Here is a look at the New York City Housing lottery and how to apply.
How to Get to the NYC Housing Lottery Interview
Step 1: Find a Building with Affordable Housing:
Many buildings throughout New York City offer affordable units – even luxury buildings. The city offers tax breaks for developers who are willing to set aside a certain number of units designated as affordable housing. There are a few ways you can find affordable housing listings:
- Visit www.nyc.gov/housingconnect
- Call 311 and ask to be connected to the Affordable Housing Hotline
- Check the newspaper for buildings advertising affordable housing
- Look at fliers in your neighborhood or local community organizations
Step 2: Check the Eligibility Guidelines
Each developer has different eligibility requirements, so when you find a building you like, make sure you and your family fit the description. The developer will have specific minimum and maximum household income limits, which you must be within to qualify. They will also have credit history requirements, including no previous housing issues, such as an eviction or foreclosure. All household members must also meet the program’s rules and pass a background check for legal or criminal matters. Make sure you meet all the requirements so you don’t waste your time applying.
Step 3: Submit Your Application
Once you’ve found a building that you like with qualifications you can meet, the next step is to apply. Visit www.nyc.gov/housingconnect to create an application with accurate and up-to-date info. Inaccurate or fraudulent information is grounds for immediate rejection, so answer honestly to the best of your ability. You can apply to one development or several to increase your selection odds.
You can also apply by mail by following the instructions in the advertisement to request a paper application. Fill it out and sign it (applications without a signature will automatically be rejected). Then submit your application back to the developer before the deadline.
Step 4: Wait While the Applications are Processed
Once you submit your application, it’s simply a waiting game. If you are selected, you will find out two to ten months from the application deadline. Unfortunately, if you are not selected, you may never hear back. Developers typically receive anywhere from 1,000 to 40,000 applications per building. When you apply, your application is randomly assigned a log number, which developers use to process applications and keep the process as fair as possible. The lower your log number, the higher the chances of being approved, although it’s difficult to know how many other applicants applied. That’s why it may be wise to apply for multiple developments to increase your chances of approval.
Step 5: Prove Your Eligibility (if Selected)
If your application is approved, you will be contacted by the developer, who will invite you to an interview to verify all your information. They won’t just take your word that you are eligible; they will ask to see documentation to verify your household income and any other relevant details.
The interview is critical, and just because your application has been approved doesn’t mean you are officially confirmed. You’ll have to gather all the necessary interview documents (see below) and make sure to confirm the appointment right away. Don’t be too nervous – it isn’t a job application or co-op board interview. But it’s best to make a good impression and be sure you come prepared.
Step 6: Sign a Lease or Appeal the Decision
After the interview, you may be invited to sign a lease if everything is in order. Or you may be put on a waiting list until a suitable unit becomes available. If you are put on the waiting list, be sure to notify the developer every six months that you’re still interested in the apartment.
You will receive a rejection letter in the mail if the developer determines you are not eligible. Once you receive the rejection letter, you have two weeks or ten business days to appeal the decision if you believe the rejection was unwarranted. You must submit the appeal in writing to the developer, explaining why you believe the denial was an error, and wait for their response. In the meantime, you are welcome to apply to other housing lotteries.
NYC Lottery Interview Documents
It’s essential to bring the necessary documentation to your interview. Otherwise, you may be rejected for failing to prepare appropriately. Here are the documents you will need to provide.
Identification and Birth Certificates
Make sure to bring a photo ID and the birth certificate of anyone living in the apartment. Developers will want to see that you are legal citizens and that the information on your IDs matches what you put on the application.
Two Most Recent Tax Returns
The developers will need to see the two most recent tax returns of any adults living in the unit to ensure that the household income is within the appropriate range.
Four to Six Months of Pay Stubs
They will also request to see four to six months of pay stubs to cross-reference against your tax return to understand your financial picture better.
The developers will also want to look at your spending habits and make sure that you have enough savings to afford the apartment. Be prepared to bring 3-6 months of bank statements for them to review.
Letter of Employment
The housing lottery is not the same as public housing, and applicants must be gainfully employed, just like any other apartment. Therefore, developers will request an employment letter from any employed adults in the home.
Other documents related to income
If you have any income outside of your regular nine-to-five, such as stock dividends, real estate income, freelancing work, etc., the developer will want to see proof to get a complete picture of your financial situation.
Rent Statements from Current landlord
The developer may ask you to supply rent statements or a recommendation letter from your current landlord to confirm that you are up to date on your current payments.
NYC Lottery FAQ
How Long Does it Take to Hear Back from the NYC Housing Lottery?
Developers will usually contact you with a status on your application anywhere between two and ten months after the deadline. But, due to the high volume of applications they receive, you may never hear back, even if you are qualified.
How Do You Get Picked for the NYC Housing Lottery?
Anyone who meets the developer’s qualifications for a given building can apply. Applications are assigned a random log number and processed in order from lowest to highest. So, to avoid wasting your time, only apply where you meet the qualifications and hope for a low log number.
Is the NYC Housing Lottery Just Random?
Yes, it’s mostly just random. The developers set the specific requirements of the building, so you must be within a particular range of income and meet the other criteria to be selected. But the log numbers that dictate when your application is processed are assigned randomly to make the selection process fair.
How to Improve Your Chances of Being Selected?
The selection process is random, so it isn’t easy to improve your chances. But certain groups are often selected first. For instance, native New Yorkers tend to be selected over those moving from out of town. Other preferred groups include municipal workers, veterans, and the disabled. So while there isn’t much you can do to improve your chances, you are more likely to be selected if you are in one of those groups.