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What is New York lottery housing?

New York lottery housing refers to affordable housing units that are allocated through a lottery system in New York City. With housing costs rising dramatically in recent years, many New Yorkers struggle to find affordable housing options. The city’s lottery housing program aims to provide subsidized rental units to low and moderate-income residents who meet certain eligibility criteria.

What are the eligibility requirements for New York City affordable housing lotteries?

There are a few key requirements to be eligible for New York City’s affordable housing lotteries:

  • Income limits – There are maximum income limits to qualify, which vary by unit and household size. Typically there are tiers for households earning up to 60%, 80%, 100%, 120%, and 165% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
  • Household size – The unit must be an appropriate size for your household.
  • Employment – Applicants must demonstrate stable income from employment or other sources.
  • Credit score – Many developers require a minimum credit score of around 650.
  • Criminal history – Applicants must meet criminal background check requirements.
  • Assets – There are limits on total assets allowed, excluding certain retirement accounts.
  • Residence – You must demonstrate that you live or work in New York City.

In addition, eligibility criteria can vary by housing development. Citizens and legal permanent residents are eligible to apply for most lotteries.

What does the application process involve?

Here are the key steps to apply for New York City affordable housing lotteries:

  1. Find available lotteries – New housing opportunities are advertised through the NYC Housing Connect website, developers’ websites, and listings sites.
  2. Review eligibility – Make sure you meet the income limits and other requirements for the specific unit.
  3. Apply online – Fill out the online application for the development during the open application period.
  4. Submit documentation – If selected through the lottery, you must provide income statements, tax returns, and other documents verifying eligibility.
  5. Interview – There is sometimes an in-person interview to review all documentation.
  6. Final determination – The housing developer makes the final decision on apartment offers.

It is free to apply for affordable housing lotteries in NYC. The whole process can take several months from initial application through securing an apartment.

What are the income limits for New York City affordable housing lotteries?

The income limits for NYC affordable housing lotteries are based on the Area Median Income (AMI) for the metro region. The maximum income allowed depends on the specific unit and household size. Here are some examples of the income caps:

Household Size 60% AMI Limit 100% AMI Limit 165% AMI Limit
1 person $38,940 $64,900 $107,085
2 people $44,600 $74,220 $122,535
3 people $50,220 $83,540 $137,840
4 people $55,860 $92,860 $153,269

These income limits are set annually based on the regional AMI, which is $64,900 for a single person in 2023.

What are the asset limits for lottery housing applications?

Along with income limits, New York City housing lotteries also have asset limits to ensure units serve lower income households:

  • For 1-2 person households, asset limits range from $50,000 to $275,000 depending on income tier.
  • For 3+ person households, asset limits range from $55,000 to $275,000.
  • Retirement accounts like 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are excluded.
  • If over the asset limit, applicants may still qualify by placing the excess funds into a retirement account.

The specific asset limits for a unit depend on the income tier. Those with higher incomes are allowed higher total assets when applying. Asset limits aim to ensure affordable units serve intended households.

What types of apartment units are available through the lottery?

The New York City affordable housing lottery includes a range of different apartment types across the five boroughs:

  • Studios – Small apartments with a single room serving as bedroom and living space. More studios are available for single applicants.
  • 1-bedrooms – Apartments with a separate bedroom and living room. Can house 1-2 people.
  • 2-bedrooms – Units with 2 separate bedrooms, ideal for families with children.
  • 3-bedrooms – Larger apartments with 3 bedrooms for bigger families.
  • Supportive housing – Some units have support services for formerly homeless or disabled residents.
  • Senior housing – Buildings limited to elderly residents age 55+ or 62+.

The housing lottery includes newly constructed and renovated buildings with modern amenities. Apartment features can include:

  • Central heating and air conditioning
  • Modern appliances
  • Elevators
  • Community rooms
  • Fitness centers
  • Landscaped outdoor space
  • On-site laundry facilities
  • Parking in some buildings

Unit sizes and amenities vary across the dozens of affordable housing developments participating in the lottery system.

Where are New York City affordable housing lottery units located?

Affordable housing lottery developments are located across all 5 boroughs of New York City:

  • Manhattan – Units scattered across neighborhoods like Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Lower East Side.
  • Brooklyn – Lots of new affordable development in neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and East New York.
  • Queens – Buildings spread across different Queens neighborhoods.
  • Bronx – Affordable units in South Bronx, Concourse, and other areas.
  • Staten Island – Some developments along the North Shore and Mid-Island.

When searching for lottery listings, you can filter by preferred boroughs and neighborhoods. However, you may want to cast a wide net and apply broadly across the city.

Notable Recent Affordable Housing Lottery Developments

  • Essex Crossing – Mixed-use Lower East Side development with 561 affordable apartments.
  • Hunter’s Point South – New complexes in Long Island City, Queens with over 900 affordable units.
  • Bedford Green – 333 affordable units in a new Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn building with a fitness center and garden.
  • La Central – Nearly 650 affordable units coming to the South Bronx neighborhood of Melrose.
  • Riverwalk 8 – 476 affordable senior housing apartments in Manhattan’s Battery Park City.

How are applicants selected through the housing lottery?

New York City affordable housing units are allocated through a lottery system. Here is an overview of the randomized selection process:

  1. A housing lottery opens, allowing applicants to submit eligibility documentation online or by mail.
  2. The lottery application period closes after a set timeline, such as 3-6 weeks.
  3. A computer randomly selects applicants and assigns lottery numbers.
  4. The developer verifies eligibility of lottery winners based on income, assets, household size, and other criteria.
  5. If determined eligible, the applicant is issued an official apartment offer.
  6. Apartments are assigned in order based on lottery number rank.

While a randomized lottery is used to select applicants, the process also involves in-depth verification of eligibility to ensure affordable units serve intended low-income residents.

Improving Your Odds in the Housing Lottery

Since demand is high, the odds of winning any given housing lottery can be very low. Here are some tips to help improve your chances:

  • Apply for as many lotteries as possible – Cast a wide net across multiple listings.
  • Meet all documentation requirements – Have your paperwork ready to prove eligibility.
  • Consider smaller units – Apply for studios and 1-bedrooms to increase options.
  • Check for asset limits – Make sure your total savings and investments are under limits.
  • Have stable income – Secure employment or benefits to document income.
  • Build a strong credit history – Maintain a credit score over 650.

It can take multiple lottery entries over many months to finally receive an affordable apartment offer. Persistence and understanding the process can eventually pay off.

What are the rental prices for affordable housing lottery units?

Rental prices for New York City’s affordable housing lottery units are substantially below market-rate levels. Rent is set based on the Area Median Income (AMI) for the region.

Here are sample monthly rents for different unit types at various income tiers:

Unit Type 60% AMI Rent 100% AMI Rent 130% AMI Rent
Studio $1,223 $1,545 $1,835
1-Bedroom $1,312 $1,657 $1,944
2-Bedroom $1,574 $1,926 $2,289
3-Bedroom $1,801 $2,195 $2,490

These affordable rents are well below the current New York City median rents, which are over $3,000 for a 1-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

Can you sublet an affordable housing lottery apartment?

Subletting of New York City affordable housing units awarded through the lottery is strictly prohibited under the terms of the lease agreements. Renters who are selected to rent an affordable apartment must occupy the unit as their primary residence.

If a change in circumstances means the renter can no longer live in the unit, they may have to forfeit their affordable apartment. Subletting is not allowed given the mission of these developments to provide affordable housing for lower-income residents.

How long can you live in a New York affordable housing lottery unit?

Affordable units rented through New York housing lotteries remain affordable for specific time periods, though residents are often allowed to renew their leases. Here are some typical affordability terms:

  • 80/20 Housing – Affordable for 20 years
  • Inclusionary Zoning – Affordable for 30+ years
  • NYCHA Public Housing – Permanent affordability
  • Mitchell-Lama – Varies, often over 30 years

For a newly constructed 80/20 development, the units are kept affordable for 20 years. After this term, the owner may be able to raise rents to market-rate.

However, many existing residents are grandfathered in under rent stabilization rules and allowed to renew their original affordable leases despite the end of the 20 year affordability period.

Who pays for the affordable housing lottery program?

New York City’s affordable housing lottery program is funded from various public and private sources:

  • City taxpayer funds – Part of the city’s budget covers housing voucher costs.
  • State funds – New York State has housing programs that fund construction.
  • Federal tax credits – Low Income Housing Tax Credits drive private investment.
  • Developer contributions – A portion of units in new developments must be affordable.

Much of the financing for the affordable housing lottery relies on public-private partnerships. For example, the Extended Affordability Marketplace Program (EAM) requires developers receiving city financing to make 30% of new units affordable.

Housing Subsidies in the Lottery Program

Some key subsidies that fund the affordable rents include:

  • Section 8 vouchers – Tenants pay 30% of income, voucher covers the rest.
  • SCRIE – Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program.
  • DRIE – Disability Rent Increase Exemption program.
  • Tax abatements – Lower property taxes for developers.

These programs allow units to rent for below-market prices while still supporting operation and maintenance costs.


New York City’s affordable housing lottery provides tens of thousands of lower-income residents access to subsidized rental units. With affordable housing in short supply, the lottery program aims to open up quality apartments across the city.

While securing an affordable unit often requires persistence through multiple lotteries, the program does succeed in linking eligible applicants to housing. By partnering with developers and utilizing subsidies, New York continues efforts to preserve and build new affordable rentals.