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Odds of Winning an Affordable Housing Lottery Are Long, 1-in-600 Chance

Hunters Point South (Source: NYEDC)

April 23, 2019 By Thomas Laforgia

Applications for New York City’s housing lottery have skyrocketed since 2011 — with hopefuls now facing 1-in-600 odds of snagging an affordable unit, according to lottery data.

The lottery system in 2011 processed 133,335 requests for affordable apartments. By 2018, officials reported that 4,654,603 applications had been submitted, according to housing data.

A major spike in available lottery housing under the de Blasio administration has only slightly tempered the runaway apartments-to-applicants ratio. In 2011, there were 2,107 units up for grabs, a number that by 2018 had nearly quadrupled to 7,857. But the odds of scoring a spot in 2011 were much rosier back then— just 1 in 63, according to the New York Times.

The surge in applications followed the city’s release of its online NYC Housing Connect system in 2012, which made it easier for residents to apply. The website allows applicants to fill out a profile and enter multiple lotteries. By 2016, the odds of winning had ballooned, peaking at nearly 1 in 1,000, when 2.54 million applications were in the draw for 2,628 affordable apartments.

The lotteries are open to New Yorkers who earn no more than $120,615 for a single person or $199,650 for a family of six. And the demand is very high for many projects. For instance, more than 92,000 applied for the 924 units at Hunters Point South in 2014.

The income levels have been subject to criticism. Critics claim that the lottery does not go far enough to help the people at the low income spectrum who are most in need of affordable housing.

The apartments are owned by private developers that typically receive tax abatements or zoning benefits in exchange for the units.

The odds aren’t quite as dire as they seem since many applicants are disqualified., according to city’s Department of Housing Preservation, which oversees the lotteries with the Development and Housing Development Corporation.

Applicants are often disqualified for earning too much or too little or not having the necessary paper work.

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Current LIC Resident

The problem with the affordable housing is that the % of rent is not proportional to the income. For the same buildings the market rate tenants must earn 45x the monthly rent. In the affordable instances, depending on the AMI and what bracket of affordability, you are looking at way more than 50% of your income going to rent. Regardless of the upper brackets (middle income) you still cannot afford to pay the rent.


The apartments are owned by private developers that typically receive tax abatements or zoning benefits in exchange for the units. That’s part of the scam there. Im Going to look into being one of these developers. Is it just new construction or existing buildings that can be part of this so called cash cow?

Harry Bingham IV

Yippee 600 to 1 odds to ‘win’ a unit that is anything but ‘affordable.’ Congratulations! You just won a 250 square foot studio for $2,100 a month. Oh, and don’t forget to use the poor door – we can’t have riffraff like you mingling with the market-rate tenants.


A city of 8.6 million people gets 4.7 million applications for an “affordable” apartment? Either this is the biggest scam, with loads of foreigners and wealthy trying to land one of these units, or we are witnessing the worst economic unfairness in this city’s history, with millions of people hanging on for dear life.


It’s simply because people apply to multiple places. 4.7 million applications is not the same as 4.7 million people. For example, I’ve applied to about 200 places over the years. I imagine some people do much more. So it’s neither of the things you said. You just misunderstood.


I stand corrected. Millions of New Yorkers are NOT hanging on for dear life. Thanks for much of the clarification.

Matt Miller

Look, you may think living in NYC is the third world or something, but it’s not, and despite you fantasies, millions are not hanging on for dear life as a result of the city’s affordable housing program.

Kimmie A

It’s not affordable though. They want a single person to earn $120,615/year. That would be their annual income. To get that annual income, one would have to earn $66.27/hr. HOW is that considered affordable housing?


That’s not how it works. Only a tiny minority of the available units are for people making that kind of money. The overwhelming majority are for people making much much less. At the subsidized building where I live, we have mostly incomes in the 20-30k/year range, for example.


This “AFFORDABLE NONSENSE” has been going on for years with DumBlasio and company, he continued the failed King Bloomberg policies that he so much hated in his first run for Mayor. Affordable, NOT.

You hate developers right?

Agreed, luxury developers like Trump don’t represent the middle class. Can you imagine someone in the middle class voting for him?!


“The lotteries are open to New Yorkers who earn NO MORE than $120,615 for a single person…”


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