As the city celebrates milestones in its effort to build new affordable housing this week, it’s also exploring the process by which people get those affordable units, and finding room for improvement.
A joint report by the departments of Housing Preservation and Development and Consumer Affairs released Tuesday contains the results of a year-long survey of community housing stakeholders and affordable-housing developers as well as findings from a pilot program by the Office of Financial Empowerment aimed at helping people apply for affordable housing.
“The number one takeaway from the focus groups was that the application process can be difficult to understand,” the report found. “Many applicants were confused about the process, did not understand the steps required, and/or did not know how long the process can take.” Applicants were confused about how the lottery works and how to prepare for steps like a screening interview.
While the city has taken several steps to try to make the lottery easier to use, the report recommends doing more: “One important step the city can take to help individuals through the search for affordable housing is to provide clear explanations of the process in more detail than what is currently available.”
Confusion, however, is just one of obstacles identified in the report—and a relatively easy one to overcome. More difficult is the fact that most applicants who fail to get housing are tripped up by income requirements; that’s especially so for households with “income that varies from one paycheck to the next or from one year to the next.”
And the inescapable reality is that demand for affordable housing far outstrips supply. Applications per available unit soared from 158 in 2012 to 883 in 2015. The HPD/DCA report puts it mildly when it concludes, “This high demand for affordable housing means that the overall chances of securing housing are low.”
For a lucky few, a new lottery opened this week for an affordable-housing development on Boston Road in Crotona Park East in the Bronx: 107 apartments ranging from studios to three bedrooms and from $368 to $1,740 in monthly rent. Information on and application tools for that and other housing lotteries can be obtained via the city’s Housing Connect tool.