Quinn Delivers on State of the City Speech Promise

New Yorkers Can Now Log On To www.nyc.gov/housingconnect To Apply For Two New Affordable Developments As Pilot Phase Starts

NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Citywide Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant today announced the launch of the City’s new automated affordable housing lottery website. Beginning Tuesday, June 5th, New Yorkers will be able to fill out an online application and apply to two new affordable housing developments—one in Harlem and one in Queens—as the pilot phase for the system officially begins.

NYC Housing Connect, which is being developed jointly by HPD, the NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC), and the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) will simplify the housing lottery system by allowing New Yorkers to fill out a single application and apply to multiple new housing lotteries using an automated online system accessible on the new website at www.nyc.gov/housingconnect.

Speaker Quinn announced plans for the automation of the City’s housing lotteries in her 2011 State of the City address as a common sense solution to help simplify the lottery application process for New Yorkers looking for affordable rental apartments and homeownership opportunities.

Since the 1980s, the City has relied on a manual, labor-intensive, paper-based process for randomly selecting eligible tenants and homeowners for affordable units. Although the process includes strict controls to ensure the housing lottery process is fair and equitable, it can be very time-consuming. In order to participate in a lottery, a person currently has to contact the respective building managers, community sponsors and/or real estate professionals directly to request an application. If a household is interested in more than one affordable housing lottery, they must apply separately to each; contacting each developer according to the instructions in the advertisement and filling out a new application each time.

“The launch of HPD’s online housing application is an exciting innovation that will make it easier for New Yorkers to apply for, and find out about affordable housing opportunities in their neighborhoods,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “New Yorkers will now have a simple way to monitor the status of housing lotteries and manage their online housing application.”

“The NYC Housing Connect website provides New Yorkers with a centralized, user-friendly online portal where they can apply to multiple affordable housing lotteries with a single application,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “While the lottery has always employed strict controls to ensure our housing is distributed fairly, today we are transforming the application process to enhance the experience and make it much easier for New Yorkers to apply. We are excited to officially launch the pilot phase with these two new developments, and look forward to rolling out the full system later this fall. I thank Speaker Quinn for her partnership and continued support, and both HDC and DoITT for their hard work in helping create a more transparent and user-friendly system.”

“NYC Housing Connect is the latest tool in an online arsenal of applications helping City government work more smartly and simply for New Yorkers,” said Citywide Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant. “DoITT is pleased to support this initiative, and we commend Speaker Quinn and HPD Commissioner for their continuing efforts to make it a reality.”

To date, under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, more than 130,700 units of affordable housing have been financed by HPD, HDC and their for-profit and not-for profit partners with total dollar commitments in excess of $19.4 billion. The majority of these apartments and homes—more than 107,400—are available to households earning less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), or $65,450 as calculated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The City requires that subsidized apartments be rented through an open lottery system to ensure fair and equitable distribution of housing to eligible applicants. Marketing of the apartments and the application process for the lottery typically begin when construction is approximately 70 percent complete.

The NYC Housing Connect website will simplify the application process for New Yorkers seeking affordable housing opportunities, and will amalgamate listings for both HPD and HDC-financed developments which are currently listed on their separate websites.

It also gives applicants information on what steps they need to take to apply for affordable housing and what they can expect once they have submitted their application. NYC Housing Connect provides a centralized, user-friendly online portal where applicants can apply to multiple projects with a single application as well as well as track the status of lotteries they apply to. On the site, applicants will be able to:

• Learn how to apply for affordable housing in New York City
• View current and upcoming housing opportunities from HPD and HDC
• Start, save, and complete an application for the household
• Apply to any current open lottery for which a household may qualify

“This new online affordable housing application process will make it a lot easier for many New Yorkers to apply for affordable housing,” said Council Housing and Buildings Committee Chair Erik Martin Dilan. “I commend Speaker Quinn for championing NYC Housing Connect and thank HPD Commissioner Mathew Wambua and HDC President Marc Jahr for partnering with her on this very important initiative. I’m sure it will be a resounding success and help countless people in their quest for housing.”

“I am pleased that HPD and HDC will be using technology to expedite and streamline the affordable housing application process for all New Yorkers,” said Council Technology Committee Chair Fernando Cabrera. “Many of my constituents list housing as their top concern and this use of technology will greatly facilitate their search for affordable housing.”

Tuesday’s pilot launch of NYC Housing Connect for the lotteries for the Westwind Houses in East Harlem and Richmond Place in Queens will allow the City to assess the system in real time as it is being used by applicants. This will serve to help streamline and improve the website leading up to the official full launch later in the fall.

Following the full launch, New Yorkers will be able to use the NYC Housing Connect website to apply to all available housing lotteries using the new automated application system. Paper applications will continue to be accepted for all projects.

Westwind Houses, located at 45 East 131st Street in East Harlem is being developed by Dunn Development Corp. The project will provide 47 new affordable apartments (including a super’s unit) for low-income New Yorkers. Thirty-six units will be available through the pilot of NYC Housing Connect. The remaining 10 units are set aside for formerly homeless individuals. The apartments will be available to households earning no more than 60% of the AMI, which is currently $49,800 for a family of four.

Richmond Place, located at 129-11 Jamaica Avenue in the Richmond Hill section of Queens, is being developed and marketed by the Arker Companies. The project will provide 117 new affordable apartments for low-income New Yorkers. Ninety-two units will be available through the pilot of NYC Housing Connect. The remaining 24 units are set aside for formerly homeless individuals. The apartments will be available to households earning no more than 60% of the AMI, which is currently $49,800 for a family of four.

Applicants to a particular housing lottery are not guaranteed to receive housing. The household must qualify with detailed criteria on a property-by-property basis, and must also be selected at random in that property’s lottery. For information on all of HPD’s and HDC’s current housing lotteries, please visit www.nyc.gov/hpd and www.nychdc.com. Following the full launch of NYC Housing Connect in the fall, all lotteries will be visible on www.nyc.gov/housingconnect.

Whether via the original paper applications or through the new automated NYC Housing Connect, the City’s lottery process ensures that all applicant households are carefully screened for eligibility and that housing is allocated based on criteria contractually defined prior to the start of the lottery.

To comply with the stringent legal requirements that govern the allocation of City, State, and Federal housing subsidies, HPD, HDC, the developers and their agents must adhere to established protocols that govern the housing lottery and lease-up process. The City’s system requires that a lottery be held for each individual site. This allows the timing of the lottery to be tailored to the construction timeline of the building.

At least 60 days prior to the lottery, a public solicitation for applications is made by placing advertisements in local newspapers, posting information about the opportunity on citywide websites, and listing information as part of an automated toll-free affordable housing hotline available in ten languages. People may also go to HPD’s website to sign up to receive an e-mail when it has been updated concerning available lottery opportunities. Interested households complete a standardized application (now via NYC Housing Connect or paper application) with deadlines set approximately one week prior to the lottery.

Each housing development site goes through a five-stage process that results in the allocation of housing to eligible households:

• Project approval: agency approval of the project and development of a marketing plan;
• Lottery Drawing: the random drawing of applications to determine the queue for housing;
• Eligibility Screening: a two-stage screening that documents eligibility for housing;
• Household-to-unit Matching: sorting of eligible households into available unit types resulting in;
• Offer of Housing: the allocation of housing to qualified, eligible households in the order as determined by the lottery

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About the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD):
HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. Since the plan’s inception, more than 130,700 affordable homes have been created or preserved. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/hpd

About the NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC):
HDC provides financing that builds and strengthens neighborhoods. Since 2000, the corporation has issued roughly 10% of all the multifamily housing revenue bonds in the U.S. and since 2003, when Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan was launched, HDC has raised more than $6.7 billion in financing for affordable housing developments, including in excess of $1 billion in subsidy from corporate reserves. In Affordable Housing Finance magazine’s annual listing of the nation’s top ten funders of multifamily housing, HDC is the only municipal entity included on the list, and consistently bests many of the largest commercial banks and most statewide Housing Finance Agencies (HFA). This past year, HDC was the fourth largest affordable housing lender in the U.S. after Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, beating out JPMorgan Chase and Capital One. To date, under the Mayor’s plan, HDC has financed the creation or preservation of more than 60,000 affordable units in multifamily buildings that also include 1.7 million square feet of commercial space. For additional information, visit: www.nychdc.com

About the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT)
The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) provides for the sustained, efficient and effective delivery of IT services, infrastructure and telecommunications to enhance service delivery to New York City’s residents, businesses, employees and visitors. DoITT is at the center of shaping the City’s IT strategy and policy, especially as it relates to the emerging and innovative technologies making government more effective and user-friendly. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/doitt