By Sabina Mollot
Soon after the launch of the affordable apartment lottery, local elected officials and the ST-PCV Tenants Association were urging tenants to apply for it while the window of opportunity remains open.
Though such a move might seem obvious, the pols, who held a press conference outside Stuyvesant Town last Thursday, had reason to issue the reminder.
In 2013, when the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer litigation was settled, those same politicians and tenant leaders went door to door in the complex to advise neighbors to apply for their damages, with many tenants not realizing they had to fill out paperwork for the long-awaited cash for rent over-payments. Additionally, many former residents, when called by tenant volunteers, didn’t even know they were entitled to anything.
At the presser on First Avenue, following the usual round of plugs and kudos for one another’s work, the politicians got down to business, reminding tenants of the March 31 deadline to apply.
“Now is the time to act,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick, who called the affordability program, which preserves rents at significantly below market levels at 5,000 apartments, a chance for “real rent security.
“Do not miss this opportunity,” said Garodnick. “Every New Yorker should take a hard look at this.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman added, after noticing an ad for the New York lottery in a store across First Avenue, that “We’ve got the real lottery here. Living in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper is better than hitting the New York jackpot. This is better than the Mega Millions. The hard part is making sure people send in their lottery applications and that they do it on time.”
However, Garodnick noted that someone’s odds of winning that elusive affordable Manhattan apartment doesn’t improve by entering sooner in the month rather than later.
Also, tenants shouldn’t worry that they could lose out if they end up being applicant 15,001.
While a maximum of 15,000 names will be put onto a waiting list, Blackstone rep Paula Chirhart explained that even if more than 15,000 people apply, applications will continue to be accepted through the end of the month. A computer program will then randomly pick 15,000 names, which will then be put on the list.
While there was no telling if and when those people would be called, the pols encouraged those within the income limitations to enter.
“In the words of a great poet, ‘hey, you never know,’” Hoylman couldn’t resist quipping.
Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh pointed out that it was highly unlikely that affordable housing on this scale would be offered again any time soon.
“These opportunities are rare in the city so we hope people seize it,” Kavanagh said.
Blackstone is maintaining the lottery website, though the program is overseen by the city.
On the day of the lottery’s launch, as thousands hit the website to apply, some users reported glitches, like not getting passwords emailed to them.
In response, an email address has been created for anyone who attempts to get into the system but has had trouble creating an account. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To submit a paper application by mail, an application can be requested by mailing a self-addressed sealed envelope to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, 342 Fifth Avenue, Box 425, New York, NY, 10016.
A few other tidbits about the lottery:
The affordability program is not the same thing as being rent-stabilized, so tenants who do get into those apartments won’t see increases that have been determined by the Rent Guidelines Board. Instead the increases will have to do with area median income (AMI). Rent increases will track any changes to the area median income levels (AMI) for the unit a tenant qualifies for. If a tenant moves into a 165 percent AMI unit, their yearly rent will continue to be about a third of the income level for someone making 165 percent of AMI (even if their income changes).
Along with having to disclose income, eligibility will be determined by other things. For one thing, applicants cannot all be full-time students and applicants cannot have combined assets of more than $250,000. If for any reason a would-be renter is disqualified, he or she will have five days to appeal.
Additionally, while the lottery determines eligibility according to household income, people who are currently in a roommate situation looking for their own units don’t have to include their roommates’ incomes when applying. Garodnick explained that it’s up to each applicant to decide what their definition of household is, and while a family is considered a household, “two roommates are not necessarily your household.” A press release from the Council member notes that household size is determined by the “total number of people who will be living with the applicant full-time, including the applicant.”
Meanwhile, stabilized renters have also been looking into the lottery. Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said she’s heard from a few who were asking her advice on whether it would be better to move to one of the affordable units, which will be renovated. In response, Steinberg said she told them she couldn’t say — that it was their choice. Last week, T&V interviewed a longtime tenant who expressed interest in the lottery out of a desire to move her family to a larger home. With two children in both genders, the resident called the possibility of an upgrade to three-bedroom apartment a “dream.”