MANHATTAN — When the city held a housing lottery this summer for 64 affordable units at a Madison Avenue luxury glass tower blocks from the Empire State Building, more than 104,000 New Yorkers threw their hats in the ring.
It was a new record for the city's affordable housing lottery, according to data from the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development obtained by DNAinfo. It meant long odds for those seeking to move into 160 Madison Ave., where units boast personal washer/dryers and impressive Manhattan views.
DNAinfo looked at all of the buildings whose affordable housing lotteries closed between May 2014 and August 2015, and found that the top five drew between approximately 87,000 to 104,000 applicants each and were in amenity-ladden buildings in prime Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods, HPD data show.
In all, for the 60 lotteries in DNAinfo’s analysis, there were more than 2.9 million applications submitted for roughly 3,400 units. That translated into roughly 843 applications per unit.
Only three projects had lotteries that attracted under 20,000 applicants, all of which were in The Bronx or Central Brooklyn and were open before August 2014.
City officials attributed the record-breaking level of applications to the growing awareness of their online application portal, NYC Housing Connect.
"NYC Housing Connect revolutionized the way New York families find out about and apply for affordable housing," said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, "and has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number applicants for the housing we create and preserve."
DNAinfo mapped out the buildings that held housing lotteries between June 2014 to August 2015, and found — not surprisingly — that the most popular buildings tended to be in areas with the highest market-rate rents. While they tended to target the lowest income families, they were in amenity-ladden buildings in prime Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods.
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For example, at 160 Madison Ave., the affordable studio apartments were listed at $565 a month, compared with market-rate studios that start at $3,208 per month, according to listings. The income cap for single people looking to move into such units was $24,200.
The less popular lotteries tended to be aimed at more moderate-income families and were in lower-income areas where the affordable rent was fairly similar to the asking rents in the area, data show.
The South Bronx rehab at 539 and 541 E. 147th St., for instance, had the least applications out of any HPD lottery betwen June 2014 - August 2015: 15,471.
The rent of these units, all two-bedrooms, was set at $1,434 a month, which is not that far off from the area’s median asking rent for the area. That was $1,450, according to 2014 data from StreetEasy.
And while the building had recently been renovated, the amenities of this project — “hardwood floors” — paled in comparison to the ones at 160 Madison, which include a 24-hour attended lobby as well as, for a fee, access to a fitness center, lounge and outdoor spaces.
Also, affordable housing applicants appear to be most interested in smaller apartments. All of the top 10 most popular housing lotteries were for projects that had studios. None of the least popular lotteries had studios and many included three-bedrooms.
“Providing three-bedroom apartments when demand is overwhelmingly concentrated in smaller than that might not be the best use of a scarce resource,” Jerilyn Perine, a former HPD commissioner who now heads the Citizens Housing Planning Council, “Many more people need studios and one-bedrooms, which is not surprising given the population of single adults.”
Experts said that the number of applications reveals the need for more deeply affordable housing across the city, including within increasingly expensive neighborhoods.
“People of modest means need housing a lot more desperately than middle income folks,” said Moses Gates, of the Association for Housing and Neighborhood Development, adding that in the “high market” Manhattan neighborhoods, lower income families are essentially shut out.
In The Bronx, on the other hand, where the affordable housing and the regular units tend to be more in line, families may not feel as “desperate” to get into the affordable housing developments, he said.
“There is much less demand to for city-sponsored middle-income housing in lower-income neighborhoods because the market is already taking care of that to a lesser degree,” Gates said.