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NYC’s new housing lottery guidelines aim to protect vulnerable New Yorkers

The new rules seek to protect survivors of domestic abuse, and improve access for low-income New Yorkers

535 Carlton Avenue, a Brooklyn apartment building whose rentals were offered through the city’s affordable housing lottery.
Max Touhey

Applying for an affordable apartment through the city’s housing lottery can be a confusing and somewhat byzantine process, requiring an extensive amount of time, energy, and paperwork. But as of today, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Housing Development Corporation (HDC) have unveiled changes to the process that should, in theory, make it a little less difficult—and, hopefully, more inclusive for more vulnerable New Yorkers.

According to HPD, the changes will hit on four particular pain points for applicants: reducing the necessary paperwork, making eligibility guidelines more clear, reducing the impact that debt and credit history has on an application, and enacting more protections for survivors of domestic abuse.

“As we accelerate and expand the goals of Housing New York, we are also looking to speed up the delivery of the affordable housing we are producing at record pace and ensure those homes serve the New Yorkers who need them most,” HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer said in a statement. “These updated marketing guidelines will further level the playing field for low-income New Yorkers applying for affordable housing opportunities; make sure victims of domestic violence get the protections they need; and reduce the documentation requirements to increase efficiencies.”

As an example of what this might look like in practice, under the current guidelines, an applicant can’t be rejected based on their credit score alone, but can be rejected for “credit reasons.” The new guidelines seek to limit that, with new provisions like eliminating consideration of a candidate’s debt-to-income ratio, or allowing developers to consider an applicant’s disputes with previous landlords only when it was a for-cause eviction.

For survivors of domestic abuse, the rules are particularly helpful; now, “adverse factors”—bad credit or inability to pay back debts—cannot be taken into account if the applicant has experienced partner abuse or other domestic violence.

Freelancers will also benefit, as one of the changes will get rid of the mandatory employment history requirement for self-employment and freelance income—something that’s especially tricky for those whose employment history is not particularly linear.

The new guidelines go into effect on July 1, and are already part of the Housing Connect marketing handbook—intended for developers who are creating apartments as part of the city’s affordable housing programs, but also useful for those who may one day go through the lottery process. According to HPD, the new policies will also be applied to apartments—and applicants—that are currently open through Housing Connect.