Winning an affordable housing lottery will become easier for some as a result of a set of sweeping changes to the application process announced yesterday by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Among the changes: The infamous “home visits” to applicants to ascertain their living habits and conditions before granting an apartment are being abolished.
No longer will developers and leasing agents be allowed to deny applications based solely on an applicants’ credit scores.
The ability to reject applicants based on a housing court action will also be strictly limited: While developers may reject an applicant for certain recent “for cause” evictions, they are now forbidden from disqualifying applicants who have appeared in housing court or who won back their apartments in court.
For applicants from homeless shelters, bankruptcy is no longer a disqualification, provided the applicant can document compliance with the bankruptcy order and participation in a credit repair or financial recovery program. Non-homeless applicants may still be disqualified due to a bankruptcy, but only if it occurred within the last two years.
The city also announced new limits on “personal assets” but did not reply to an inquiry asking for clarification as to what they were by deadline.
The changes — if they indeed are enacted and enforced with full transparency — are needed, said Justin La Mort, supervising attorney for MFY Legal Services, a nonprofit legal organization that represents poor New Yorkers.
Adjusting the process so that a previous housing court action does not disqualify an applicant means “they’ve at least recognized that the tenant blacklist is a problem,” La Mort said.
The home visits were “full of implicit bias,” and long overdue for abolition, La Mort added.
Also, developers have been notorious “cherry pickers” of tenants who technically had low incomes but who were rich in assets and connections (“the trust funder problem”).
La Mort is waiting to see how the process unwinds. “We hope these rules are put into effect and that they have meaning,” he said.