Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been and Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced the release of the following study:
Improving Access to Affordable Housing Opportunities, that explores the experience of affordable housing applicants and recommends ways to further support applicants through an outreach and education strategy that incorporates financial empowerment services. Based on the initial findings of the study, the agencies also released a new guide, Ready, Set, Apply: Getting Ready for Affordable Housing in NYC in English and Spanish, to help New Yorkers best prepare for and navigate the housing application process. This project is part of the City’s OneNYC commitment to raise New Yorkers out of poverty and, specifically, to improve the fairness and efficiency of the allocation of affordable housing, a key goal of the Mayor’s Housing New York plan.
“It is critical that we continuously strive to improve all New Yorkers’ access to the affordable housing opportunities we are delivering at record pace through the Mayor’s Housing New York plan,” said Vicki Been, HPD Commissioner. “This study provides valuable insight into how we can better support and prepare affordable housing applicants through outreach materials like the new Ready, Set, Apply guide, and education provided by our Housing Ambassadors program.”
“Our Office of Financial Empowerment is dedicated to empowering our communities with the tools and resources they need to achieve financial security,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “Affordable housing is a key pillar of that security because it is nearly impossible for a family, especially one living in or near poverty, to achieve financial security if they can’t afford where they live. We are excited about this partnership with HPD and look forward to continuing to work together.”
Over the past year, HPD and DCA’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), with the support of the Citi Foundation and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, studied the financial barriers that prevent affordable housing applicants from qualifying for housing, and assessed whether financial counseling could help applicants who are seeking affordable housing better prepare their finances and subsequently their applications. As part of the project, OFE coordinated a pilot program and contracted with Ariva, a community-based organization that helps clients achieve greater financial security, to provide financial counseling to more than 300 New Yorkers. HPD also conducted interviews and focus groups with housing applicants, service providers, and other stakeholders to supplement the pilot. Key findings include that several types of financial barriers can prevent affordable housing applicants from qualifying for housing, including issues related to income, credit, and debt, and that counseling interventions could have a meaningful impact on the financial capability of New Yorkers looking to obtain affordable housing.
“Citi Foundation is proud to partner with HPD and DCA OFE on this important project to expand access to affordable housing and financial empowerment resources,” said Eileen Auld, New York Tri State Director, Citi Community Development. “Affordable housing is critical to financial stability and is the foundation of an inclusive city.”
“Understanding the barriers that prevent many New Yorkers from qualifying for affordable housing is key to helping more individuals and families access the full range of housing options available. The Mayor’s Fund is proud to have played a role in this important work. We thank our dedicated public and private partners for their efforts to increase equity and opportunity for more New Yorkers,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director, The Mayors Fund to Advance NYC.
Although the focus of the research was to understand financial factors that affect individuals as they navigate the affordable housing application and screening process, the City gained insights into a broader range of issues that impede applicants from successfully securing affordable housing. The report also provides recommendations to increase understanding of the process and how long it can take, including emphasizing the importance of preparing for the application process, expanding education, leveraging community resources, and connecting applicants to City resources to assist them through the process.
Based on the initial findings, HPD, DCA and the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), with support from Citi Foundation and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, also created Ready, Set, Apply: Getting Ready for Affordable Housing in NYC in English and Spanish, a friendly and approachable guide outlining the steps to apply for affordable housing and how to prepare a strong application. The guide also covers how best to accurately report income information and educates applicants about credit and savings. By making this information accessible, the City hopes to reduce the number of applicants who have a misunderstanding of or misinformation about the process.
“By breaking down the process of applying for affordable housing into clear steps and accessible language supported by clear illustrations, we hope we can help more New Yorkers understand how to find an affordable home,” said Christine Gaspar, Executive Director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). “We’re confident this guide, created in partnership with design studio Maison Papercut and illustrator Rebecca Clarke, is an inviting and effective addition to the tools HPD and OFE offer to help people overcome barriers to affordable housing and financial empowerment.”
“New resources to help New Yorkers access affordable housing are desperately needed and our clients will use these tools with enthusiasm,” said Irene Baldwin, the Executive Director of Ariva, Inc. in South Bronx. “The people we serve have very modest resources and, when they lack affordable housing, it’s not just a barrier to achieving their financial goals; it undermines the very stability of their families and our neighborhoods. This collaborative, by integrating personal financial counseling with affordable housing resources, helps us better serve and strengthen our community.”
These initiatives build on efforts that HPD and the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) have already made to improve the affordable housing marketing process, including the launch of NYC Housing Connect in 2013, which has simplified the City’s housing lottery process. NYC Housing Connect website now serves Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, and Spanish speakers, thanks to funding for translation from Citi Community Development. More recently, HPD and HDC released a new Marketing Handbook, updating policies and procedures for how developers conduct the screening and leasing process. This included revised policies regarding the use of credit scores and debt in the affordable housing screening process. Under the new policies, applicants cannot be denied because of a low credit score alone; developers must take multiple factors into account when reviewing the credit worthiness of an applicant.
Learn more about the affordable housing lottery process and other available housing lotteries by visiting the links below:
All of the above webpages can be accessed through HPD’s website here.
About the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)
HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and diverse, thriving neighborhoods for New Yorkers through loan and development programs for new affordable housing, preservation of the affordability of the existing housing stock, enforcement of housing quality standards, and educational programs for tenants and building owners. HPD is tasked with fulfilling Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough Ten-Year Plan to create and preserve 200,000 affordable units for New Yorkers at the very lowest incomes to those in the middle class. For more information, please visit here and for regular updates on HPD news and services, connect with us via Facebook and Twitter.
About the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCA protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCA empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA here or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
About the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC
For over twenty years, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City has facilitated public-private collaborations that support the development and emerging needs of the city’s most underserved communities. Uniquely positioned to wed the unmatched reach of government with the flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector, the Mayor’s Fund leverages the deep well of civic goodwill by linking city agencies to private individuals, corporations and foundations with shared goals for New York City and its residents.
About the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)
The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a nonprofit organization that uses the power of design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement. CUP projects demystify the urban policy and planning issues that impact our communities, so that more individuals can better participate in shaping them. For more information, please visit here.
Ariva is a nonprofit financial capabilities provider, headquartered in the South Bronx, whose mission is to empower low wealth New Yorkers with effective tools and resources so they can make informed financial choices and achieve economic stability. Ariva serves hardworking New Yorkers of modest income, helping them save money, pursue their financial goals and achieve their dreams. Each year, it assists more than 10,000 people through its free income tax program and its counselors provide comprehensive financial counseling to more than 2,000 people. Its services are always free.