CIVIC CENTER — New rules for the city's affordable housing lotteries, expected to be announced by city officials Tuesday, will protect applicants with low credit scores and people who have taken their landlords to court.
The new rules, to be released in an online Marketing Handbook, are the first major changes to be implemented since the city launched its Housing Connect online lotteries in 2013. The changes came out of feedback from community groups who act as "housing ambassadors" by helping New Yorkers apply for housing, officials with the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development told DNAinfo New York.
The measures include:
► Making sure an applicant's credit score or history in housing court can't be the sole reason for denying housing.
► Tightening guidelines to ensure anyone who qualifies for an affordable apartment will be living in the unit as their primary residence.
► Requiring that interview locations be accessible and clearly marked, and that interviewers provide interpretation services, including American Sign Language.
“A major challenge our clients have faced during the affordable housing process is inconsistency in eligibility requirements, which can create confusion and frustration," said Barbara Davis, chief operating officer of The Actors Fund, a housing ambassador group that works with people in the performing arts and entertainment industries.
Davis praised the HPD's new handbook as "an excellent step in ensuring standardization in the rent-up process."
The changes also include reforms to the appeal process for applicants who believe they were wrongfully denied housing that Davis said will create "much greater transparency."
The handbook is one of several anticipated initiatives to help meet Mayor Bill de Blasio's goal of preserving 120,000 affordable units and creating 80,000 new ones over 10 years.
“Disqualifications based solely on credit history, or because a tenant fought for his or her rights in housing court, have no place in our affordable housing programs," de Blasio said in a statement. "These key improvements to the rules level the playing field and give every household the chance to find a home within their means.”
Some of the regulations specifically target vulnerable populations in need of housing, such as veterans, by clarifying how developers can assess personal assets and income received through government benefits, such as the GI Bill.
The city's Department of Veterans’ Services Commissioner Loree Sutton said the new policies make "clear that landlords must rent to veterans as they would to any other New Yorker."
The city is also hoping to make sure that developers' marketing outreach and advertising hits diverse communities around the city, making interviews more private and secure, and prohibiting home visits, which city officials now feel are too subjective.
Developers will be notified of the new policies before the city finances their projects, and about seven months before construction is complete on a new development, the developers must submit their marketing plan to the city for approval.
Marketing outreach and advertising typically starts 21 to 60 days before the deadline to apply to a development's lottery, officials said.