New York City may have tall buildings, but the city has just as tall a task to figure out how to curb skyrocketing rents.
Manhattan’s median rent is about $4,100, which is the highest it’s ever been.
Verona Lee-Alcid, who is a housing ambassador with Bronx Community Health Network, sees the inner-workings of the city’s housing firsthand.
She helps hundreds of New Yorkers searching for affordable places to live by navigating Housing Connect, a website run by the city and dedicated to placing New Yorkers in apartments they can better afford.
To start the application process, those looking for an apartment would have to fill out some information about themselves, their income, and other assets.
“It’s that easy,” Lee-Alcid said.
However, they can only apply for the homes where they are within the allowed income range.
The numbers change depending on how many people are within the house and how much money an individual makes.
“For the low income one, it was like $503,” Lee-Alcid said. “There’s nowhere you can pay $503 for an apartment in New York. Only though Housing Connect.”
For some, it can be relatively quick to find an apartment.
Lee-Alcid said she had a client that found an apartment after three months.
But for others, it can take much longer.
“It’s just not enough buildings for who is applying,” she said.
Lee-Alcid said one of her clients was looking to live in an apartment with two other people with an income of nearly $43,000.
The client applied for 27 different apartments for over a year and is still waiting.
“She calls me every month. She calls me every month to see. What can you do for me? But there’s nothing I can do,” Lee-Alcid said.
In a report released a few weeks ago from Mayor Eric Adams’ office, the median time to get approved in the lottery jumped from 88 days last year to 176 days this year.
However, that doesn’t mean everyone will get an apartment in the lottery within six months.
According to the city, that’s because of “lease-up process challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and delays in advertising and approval processes.”
“Out of 10 buildings I just put up, there’s only one my clients can apply for and that’s a problem,” Lee-Alcid said.
Nearly all the buildings available are for income ranges above the lowest levels.
Lee-Alcid said that means for people on fixed income, the apartments they qualify for are the most competitive and sometime have no options available.
“These people are the ones I get calling every day with the frustration that there is nothing there for them,” Lee-Alcid said. “So they get frustrated and think where do I fit in in this lottery?”
While some apartments are privately owned, the low rents are possible because the government subsidizes the financing of the buildings.
Last month, the mayor identified housing goals including “streamlining access to affordable housing and reducing administrative burden for residents.”
Meanwhile, with applications filed from July 2020 through the end of 2021, only point two percent were selected in what some may say is appropriately called the housing lottery.