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In Times round-up on the housing lottery, a happy 535 Carlton resident (though she doesn't consider her apartment that “affordable”)

Better Than the Powerball is the headline on the cover story for today's New York Times Real Estate section, subtitled "For New Yorkers looking for an affordable home, the odds of winning a housing lottery are 1 in 592."

But, of course, that overall figure isn't particularly helpful. Then again, the article complicates things:
Despite those daunting statistics, chances of winning are better than it may seem. That is because many of those who apply are disqualified, either because their earnings exceed or are below the requirements for a specific development, or because they fail to provide the necessary paperwork, including work history and tax records.

And depending on the housing project, preference may be given to those who meet certain criteria, like municipal workers, the homeless or residents of the neighborhood where the development is being built. 
Odds differ, depending on income

As I commented, that deserves more context, because the odds for better-off applicants are exponentially higher than the odds for low-income ones. Given the need, far more people seek the lowest-cost apartments.

As I wrote in April 2017 for City Limits, analyzing the raw data regarding lottery applicants for 535 Carlton, 92,743 households entered that lottery. But only 2,203 were initially eligible (before vetting) for 148 middle-income apartments, such as one-bedrooms renting for $2,680 monthly and two-bedrooms at $3,223. Also, 4,609 entrants vied for 44 units in the building’s other middle-income “band." For the 15 moderate-income units, some 18,680 households applied.

More starkly, nearly 67,000 households *aimed at* the 90 low-income units. A good number of them were ineligible because their incomes either were too low or they fell between the two low-income “bands.”

Yes, 535 Carlton

The article highlighted a range of people and projects, from low-income to middle-income. And yes, there was a resident of 535 Carlton, Erika Lindsey, paying $2,170 for a one-bedroom, which is the lower of the two middle-income "bands."

An urban planner, Lindsey began looking into the housing lottery in 2010, when she was "living in a fourth-floor walk-up in Bedford-Stuyvesant," worried that the rent  was going up. She got waitlisted at 250 Ashland Place but got picked for 535 Carlton:
Because Ms. Lindsey’s income is at the upper end of the range for one person, she faced less competition than others in the housing lottery. In fact, the building struggled to find people who qualified for the rent-stabilized apartments with higher income requirements. The developer eventually listed some of the units on the website StreetEasy, where most homes are market rate, in a bid to attract tenants.
That's not the half of it. Surely the Times could've reported that tenants in the upper middle-income units were given one and then two months free on one-year leases as concessions--and, after the article went to press, three months. (So one-bedrooms officially renting for  $2,680 would have a net effective rent, at least for the first least term, of $2,010.)

From the article:
The rents on apartments like Ms. Lindsey’s can be nearly as expensive as those found on the open market, if not more so. But as the city sees it, having a mix of incomes helps create a more diverse building, and higher-income units also help landlords offset the cost of providing apartments to lower-income tenants.
Yes, there are social and economic arguments for such mixed buildings, but... the arrangement of affordable units at 535 Carlton, as well as at the similar 38 Sixth, differs vastly from the plan as announced.

The upper middle-income "band," the one that's so hard to find takers for, was supposed to represent 20% of total affordable units. In these buildings, that band is fully half the units.

Not so affordable

From the article:
Ms. Lindsey concedes that her apartment isn’t exactly “affordable,” and that she pays more now than she did in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where her rent was $1,450 a month. But her new building has more amenities — and it isn’t a walk-up.
“I did the math: I spent $200 a month on Lyfts, because I often had to take a car home at night, so I’m saving on that,” she said. And because you cannot be evicted based on income increases once you win a housing lottery, she added, “I told myself that at some point, because it is rent-stabilized, the apartment will feel like a deal.”
It's hard to disagree--and it's a new apartment. But, for the umpteenth time, helping the middle-class was not what ACORN and others supporting this project were marching for.

Which is maybe why we should call the units "government sponsored" or "subsidized" or "income tested," rather than "affordable."


  1. Anonymous12:01 PM

    They also need to do away preference,iam from brooklyn and got denied because iam no longer a resident of community board 8, although i was born and raised there been living there for 35 years, got pushed out because of high rents

    1. That raises the question as to who deserves that community preference.
      There *was* an effort to get the city to give retroactive preference to those who were pushed out, but the city didn't agree to do so:


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