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As number of applicants per affordable unit soars, city seeks ways to improve access to lotteries

So, how well do affordable housing lotteries work? According to a report (Improving Access to Affordable Housing Opportunities) by the New York City departments of Housing Preservation and Development and Consumer Affairs, they could be a lot better.

As summarized in City Limits, the application process needs to be clarified and streamlined. Indeed, the city also released a guide to applying for affordable housing, Getting Ready for Affordable Housing (also in Spanish).

The guide advises on such things as credit history, housing court history, the establishment of a Housing Connect profile for applications, applying for housing, preparing for an interview, and what to expect after the interview, including how to appeal a rejection.

That guide doesn't say how long you'll wait, which is one issue highlighted in the new report. "The number one takeaway from the focus groups was that the application process can be difficult to understand," the guide says, noting that applicants may share misinformation, failing to recognize that a high “log number,” which is randomly assigned, does not necessarily mean a higher chance of being awarded housing.

Confusion and delay

The report says:
The overall leasing process can be lengthy, in some instances taking more than a year. Updates about the status of one’s application are not always available, and applicants expressed worry that they were somehow forgotten or were missing emails, voicemails, and/or letters.
The report recommends building on the new guide with "a range of complementary educational materials." Indeed, as shown in the saga of applicants for the 461 Dean affordable housing, many are confused and don't know when and how to get updates.

As noted by City Limits, income requirements can be tricky, especially for households with fluctuating incomes.income that varies from one paycheck to the next or from one year to the next.”

Shadowing all this is the relentless rise in demand for the housing. In 2012, the city logged 158 applications per available unit, a .63% chance. In 2015, the figure was 883 per unit, a .11% chance. It may be even tougher by now.