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How does the New York apartment lottery work?

The New York City affordable housing lottery, also known as the NYC apartment lottery, is a program run by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) that allows low- to moderate-income New Yorkers to apply for affordable rental and homeownership opportunities in newly constructed or renovated buildings throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

What is the NYC affordable housing lottery?

The New York City affordable housing lottery was created to help increase the availability of affordable housing options for New Yorkers who meet certain income requirements. Developers who receive tax incentives or other financing assistance from the city are required to set aside a portion of units in newly constructed or substantially renovated buildings for low- to moderate-income residents. These income-restricted units are then made available through the housing lottery.

The lottery allows eligible New Yorkers to apply for affordable units in participating housing developments. Applications are open for a limited time, and lotteries are held to randomly select applicants to move forward in the lease-up process. The availability of apartment vacancies, income requirements, and rent prices vary by each individual housing development.

Who is eligible for the affordable housing lottery?

Eligibility requirements for the NYC housing lottery vary by development, but applicants generally must fall within certain income brackets to qualify. There are housing lottery opportunities for very low-income, low-income, and moderate-income households.

Income limits are based on the area median income (AMI) for the New York metropolitan area, which is determined annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For example, some current income eligibility guidelines include:

  • Very low-income: Households earning up to 50% of AMI
  • Low-income: Households earning 50-80% of AMI
  • Moderate-income: Households earning 80-165% of AMI

Income limits vary based on household size, so a household of four would have higher income thresholds than a single-person household. Apartments with income requirements at or below 80% AMI are subject to rent stabilization.

In addition to meeting income qualifications, applicants must also:

  • Have acceptable credit histories and landlord references
  • Meet standard occupancy requirements
  • Qualify within asset limits if applicable
  • Provide necessary application materials

Applicants do not have to be New York City residents initially, but they must demonstrate a need for housing and plan to use the affordable unit as their primary residence if selected.

How does the application process work?

The NYC affordable housing lottery application process involves the following steps:

  1. Check eligibility requirements – Make sure your household meets the income, credit, and occupancy requirements outlined in the advertisement for the housing development.
  2. Review application materials – Each lottery posting will include a list of documents and forms you need, which may include pay stubs, tax returns, landlord references, etc.
  3. Submit application – Applications must be received by the deadline, either online, by mail, or in person. A random lottery number is assigned to each applicant.
  4. Lottery held – After the deadline passes, a computerized lottery selects applicants at random based on their lottery numbers.
  5. Income and eligibility verification – If selected, applicants must provide documentation to verify income, assets, and eligibility.
  6. Interview and final determination – The housing developer interviews applicants and makes a final determination on occupancy.
  7. Lease signing – Approved applicants sign a lease and complete renter education if required.

The whole process of applying, getting selected via lottery, and getting approved can take many months. It helps to prepare documentation and follow up proactively throughout the process.

Where are affordable housing lottery listings posted?

Listings for affordable housing lottery opportunities in New York City are posted in the following places:

  • NYC Housing Connect website – The official NYC portal for affordable housing listings.
  • Local newspapers – Classified sections will contain affordable housing ads.
  • Developers’ websites – Many developers provide information on their specific listings.
  • Signs on property – Marketing signs and banners are placed on some lottery properties.
  • Community centers – Some housing listings are promoted on bulletin boards.

The NYC Housing Connect website contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date listings. Applicants can set up alerts for new lottery advertisements that match their eligibility criteria.

What information is provided in the listings?

Listings for NYC affordable housing lotteries generally contain the following information:

  • Property name and address
  • Developer/owner name and contact info
  • Number of units and unit sizes
  • Percentage of units for each income tier
  • Rent prices for income tiers
  • Amenities offered
  • Occupancy requirements
  • Income eligibility guidelines
  • Application requirements and deadline
  • Date of lottery drawing

The advertisement will provide instructions on how and where interested applicants can obtain a full application packet for that property.

What are the odds of winning the lottery?

The odds of being selected through the NYC affordable housing lottery vary greatly depending on factors like location, price, and number of applicants. More desirable units in popular areas like Manhattan can draw thousands of applicants for just a handful of available apartments, making the odds very low.

However, applying to multiple lotteries across different boroughs and neighborhoods can help improve your chances. The odds may be higher for properties in less central locations or for units with special eligibility criteria. Some tips to potentially increase your odds include:

  • Apply to as many appropriate lotteries as possible
  • Consider units in higher supply areas like Far Rockaway and East New York
  • Prioritize lotteries with income tiers you qualify for
  • Apply for units with accessibility or community preference

Ultimately, though, the process is random, so persistence is key when applying to multiple lotteries over time.

What are the steps after getting selected in the lottery?

If you are selected through the housing lottery, there are still several steps required before you can sign a lease and move into the affordable unit:

  1. Income and eligibility verification – You must provide documentation confirming your reported income, assets, household size, and other criteria.
  2. Credit check – The housing developer will conduct a credit check and address any issues or discrepancies.
  3. Background check – A standard background screening process is conducted on all adult household members.
  4. Interviews – You will need to attend in-person interviews with the developer’s leasing team.
  5. Housing counseling – Many developers require approved tenants to take housing counseling classes.
  6. Lease approval and signing – The developer verifies everything and approves your lease for the affordable unit.

This approval process takes at least a couple months. You will need to communicate and provide documents in a timely manner. If you are rejected at any stage, the developer moves to the next lottery applicant on the waiting list.

Can you reapply if you aren’t selected?

Yes, applicants who were not selected in an initial affordable housing lottery may reapply in future lotteries. There is no limit on how many times you can enter the lottery.

Some tips for reapplying include:

  • Review the rejection notice to understand why you were not selected.
  • Address any issues that may have made you ineligible.
  • Continue monitoring listings for new opportunities.
  • Be diligent about submitting applications and required documents.
  • Consider seeking housing counseling services to strengthen your application.

Persistence is key – it often takes multiple lottery entries over many months or years before an applicant is finally selected. Reapplying also places you higher on some developers’ internal waiting lists if spaces reopen.

Are there any alternatives to the lottery?

The NYC housing lottery is the primary way to obtain income-restricted affordable housing. However, there are some alternative options to consider including:

  • Mitchell-Lama developments – These rental and co-op buildings created by state programs have their own application process outside the lottery. Household income limits apply.
  • HUD buildings – Privately owned buildings subsidized by the federal government through HUD also have designated affordable units with separate waitlists.
  • Supportive/transitional housing – New Yorkers experiencing homelessness or needing supportive services may qualify for housing assistance programs.
  • Below-market rate (BMR) units – A small number of new luxury buildings set aside BMR units allocated outside the lottery.
  • Rent-stabilized apartments – Rent-stabilized units can have lower rents, but you’ll need to find existing tenants vacating.

However, these alternatives tend to have even longer waitlists and limited vacancies. The NYC housing lottery remains the most viable option for most moderate- to middle-income New Yorkers seeking affordable rentals.

Can you get help with the housing lottery process?

The NYC housing lottery process can be challenging to navigate, but free housing counseling services are available to assist applicants. Some options include:

Organization Services Provided
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development Housing seminars, application assistance, eligibility troubleshooting
Neighborhood Housing Services Financial counseling, credit repair assistance, application help
MHANY Management Inc Application clinics, document preparation guidance, follow-up support
Grow Brooklyn Housing workshops, personalized application coaching

These NYC-based non-profit groups can provide guidance for first-time applicants or those looking to improve their chances. Free services may include application form reviews, document collection, income calculations, and application tracking.


The New York City affordable housing lottery provides an opportunity for lower-income residents to rent below-market rate units in new residential developments across the city’s five boroughs. The application process involves submitting eligibility documentation and undergoing a random selection lottery drawing. Applicants who are selected must then complete income and background verifications, interviews, and counseling classes before signing a lease.

Competition is intense, so persistence across multiple lotteries greatly improves one’s chances over time. Free housing counseling services can assist applicants in navigating the process and presenting the strongest application possible. While challenging, the housing lottery remains the primary path for middle-class New Yorkers to find affordable rents in the city’s extremely expensive real estate market.