The city’s Department of Housing Preservation Development (HPD) along with the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) this week relaxed measures for city residents looking for affordable housing through its Housing Connect lottery.
The easing of restrictions come as there has been a lot of speculation that in order to get called for one of the apartments one had to know somebody, and/or that a good many of the “affordable” apartments are beyond the AMI (Area Medium Income) band financial reach of working- and lower-middle-class New Yorkers.
But in a memo from the HPD and HDC marketing team to real estate trade insiders, the city announced the changes.
“We are pleased to introduce new changes to the Housing Connect lottery process, aimed at moving New Yorkers into stable, affordable housing as quickly as possible, during the COVID crisis and beyond. We are committed to working with developers and marketing agents to expedite the leasing of developments, while maintaining a clear, consistent process and strong protections for applicants. Thank you for your process recommendations, which helped to shape these important new policies,” wrote the HPD and HDC marketing team.
Among the changes include:
For projects that are utilizing a third-party consultant to verify the agent’s income and eligibility certification prior to submission to the agencies, HPD and HDC will waive the agency file review upon submission of an affirmation of eligibility from the third-party reviewer. The agency will continue to review compliance with lottery procedures to ensure that applicants are processed in the appropriate order and are afforded all of the protections outlined in the Marketing Handbook. This change will reduce agency review of approved applicants from 5 to 2 business days.
Reduced Appeal Period
Effective immediately, the appeal period for rejected applicants will be reduced from 10 business days to 5 business days. Marketing agents will only be required to hold a unit for a rejected applicant for five days before moving on to the next eligible applicant, expediting the processing for subsequent applicants. Applicants who request to be contacted via paper-mail, rather than email, are to be contacted by telephone to inform them of their rejection and their opportunity to appeal, as USPS mail communication will not provide sufficient time for an applicant to receive a rejection letter and assemble an appeal.
Relaxed documents for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and non-LIHTC units
A reduced checklist of documents required for verifying student status, income, and assets will be implemented immediately.
Affirmation of Interest
In order to expedite processing of the log, Marketing Agents may conduct outreach to larger batches of apparently eligible applicants to affirm interest in the development before they are reached for processing. The notice must contain details about the project, such as location, amenities, income qualifications, and rent amounts. Applicants must be offered five business days to respond affirming their interest. Communication with applicants who requested to be contacted by email may be conducted by email. Applicants who requested to be contacted by paper-mail must be contacted by phone; those who indicate they are no longer interested or do not respond within five days must receive a letter communication documenting the phone call. Applicants who do not respond are considered rejected. No rejection notice is required to be sent.
Owners may consider offering rental concessions, such as eliminating first month’s rent and/or security deposit for approved applicants. Where the first month’s rent is eliminated, the minimum income requirement will re-calculated based on the year’s net rent, increasing the marketing band and, ultimately, the number of applicants deemed eligible. Increasing the number of eligible applicants can expedite the lease-up of the project. Likewise, eliminating the security deposit removes barriers for applicants to accept a unit for which they have been approved.
An HPD spokesperson said the agency must ensure document requirements meet the right standards while causing as little burden to applicants as possible.
“We want to make sure that document requirements do not represent a barrier for any applicants to qualify,” the spokesperson said.
[Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted on Kings County Politics.]