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Getting Subsidized Housing in New York

There are two kinds of subsidized housing in New York: Section 8 and public housing projects. Both are managed by each city's public housing authority.


The gap between the affordable rent for a person working minimum wage and the standard rent for an apartment in New York is the fifth largest in the country.

In New York, 46% of households rent. The minimum wage is $9.70. The Fair Market Rent for a one bedroom is $1,243, and for a two bedroom is $1,460. This means that affordable rent for someone working full-time on minimum wage in New York is $504. A person earning minimum wage would need to work 99 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom rental home and 116 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental home.

So it's not surprising that NYC has the largest Section 8 program in the U.S. There are around 90,000 currently active Section 8 vouchers in NYC right now and around 29,000 landlords who receive them. That's 4% of all rental units in the city.

What's the difference between Section 8 and public housing?

Section 8 means that you'll get a voucher from the city that you can use to apply for and live in any private market (not public housing) building. If you have the voucher then you'll only spend 40% of your family's income on rent, and NYCHA pays the rest directly to the landlord. There are 250,000 New Yorkers benefiting from Section 8 housing.

Public housing means that you'll live in one of the buildings owned and managed by the city. There are 328 of these developments in the five boroughs, with 400,000 residents.

Getting subsidized housing in New York

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a list of Public Housing Agencies in New York that can help low-income families secure government assistance through public housing or Section 8.

Qualifying

To receive Section 8 assistance in New York, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States or a legal immigrant
  • Have not been evicted from public housing for any drug-related charges in the past three years
  • Your income must be below 80% of the median income in your area, but the majority of Section 8 housing vouchers go to families earning less than 30% of their area’s median income.

Here's a list of income requirements divided by area. Government assistance is also available to senior citizens or disabled people on fixed incomes, families displaced by natural disasters, and homeless people with disabilities.

Applying

To apply for public housing or Section 8 in New York, you can visit a Public Housing Agency or apply online.

You will fill out an application with basic information about your household, income, and any specific situations (such as small children or disabled people in your family) that your area uses to offer prioritized assistance. You can view the applications for each Public Housing Authority throughout the state on their website, but if you're in NYC and you're wondering if you'll qualify, here are the maximum incomes per household size for New York City public and section 8 housing:

  • 1 person: $58,450
  • 2 people: $66,800
  • 3 people: $75,150
  • 4 people: $83,450
  • 5 people: $90,150

Waiting list

If you're applying for Section 8, you may be placed on a waiting list. Depending on how many people in your area are seeking assistance, you may have to wait until the PHA opens their waiting list to new applicants. Public housing assistance is typically easier to secure, and is often granted to people as they are waiting for their Section 8 application to be approved. You can look at the government's list of public housing developments in your area to see what's available. You can view which PHA locations are accepting public housing applications and which PHA locations are accepting Section 8 applications online.

Interview

When your Section 8 application is evaluated, you will have an interview. At the interview, a government employee will speak with you and review your paperwork to ensure that you still qualify for housing assistance. If your income level or family makeup has changed in the time you were on the waiting list, you will need to provide updated documentation. If you meet the criteria, your application will be approved.

Approval

Once you are approved for housing assistance, you will be able to move into a new place. Depending on where you live, you may have a list of buildings to choose from that already accept Section 8, or you may be able to select from a wider range of buildings. The building will have to undergo an inspection to make sure it meets the standards set by the government for Section 8 buildings. If it passes inspection, you will sign the lease and your landlord will sign an agreement with the government allowing you to use your Section 8 voucher for rent payments.


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