To many New Yorkers, winning the affordable housing lottery is pretty much the same thing as winning the actual lottery.

Finding a low-cost apartment in New York City is not an easy task, but the city does offer programs to help out. One such program is the affordable housing lottery.

If you’re interested in applying for the lottery that recently opened at Pacific Park in Brooklyn, or any of the city’s other opportunities, scroll down to learn more about how it all works.

How does the affordable housing lottery work?

Once applications are gathered, those that qualify (and are filled out completely) are put in random order and given a log number. From there, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development and its partners begin the selection process based on the order of the log numbers.

Although the randomized log number system is set up to assure fairness, there are some application preferences that exist, including persons with disabilities or impairments, residents who currently live in that building’s community board and municipal employees. Sometimes an individual building might have other preferences such as veterans or senior citizens.

What are the qualifications for the lottery?

Qualifications vary for each affordable housing lottery. For example, a lottery for apartments at 325 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg requires that a single person applicant for a studio earns between $21,772 and $25,400 a year. Meanwhile, a single person applicant for a studio at Five Blue Slip in neighboring Greenpoint would have to make between $13,955 and $19,050 a year. Each housing lottery’s qualifications can be found on the NYC Housing Connect website under the Housing List section. 

How do I apply?

While the qualifications might be a bit confusing, the application process is straightforward. Apply online by heading to the NYC Housing Connect website, register if you haven’t already, then complete your household information, including details on employment and income. Next, find the building you want to apply for and click the “apply” button. You can then monitor your application’s status through your online account under the Housing List section. Here are some tips:

  • Remember to submit your application before the deadline date.
  • Anyone who submits duplicate applications for the same household will be disqualified.
  • Fraudulent or incomplete information in an application could result in disqualification.

Is there a broker fee or application fee for the lottery?

Simply put: No. The only fee you may have to pay is a nonrefundable credit check fee.   

How do I know if I’ve been accepted or not?

The HPD receives a very high volume of applicants for affordable housing lotteries, and because of this, not every applicant is contacted if they’re rejected. You will be contacted for the following reasons:

  • If you have been randomly selected to continue on to the next phase of the process, someone will contact you to set up an interview.
  • If your application did not meet the income qualifications for a specific lottery.
  • If you submitted more than one application for a lottery and have been disqualified.

Once you’ve been randomly selected and complete your interview, you may be contacted again if further documentation is needed. Otherwise, the building’s developer will submit an approval request to HPD. Once HPD gives its approval, a lease can be signed.

What does it mean to be placed on the waiting list?

After an affordable housing property is completely filled, remaining qualified applicants can be placed on a waiting list with new, lower log numbers (which are still randomized). When an apartment becomes available, the developer can pull an applicant from the waiting list. If you make the waiting list, the developer will notify you, but you must indicate in writing every six months that you wish to stay on the waiting list.

Can I appeal a rejection?

You typically have two weeks to appeal a rejection after you’ve received notice from the building’s developer. If you believe you’ve been wrongly rejected, you must send an appeal letter to the developer detailing why you believe you qualify.