Winning the lottery: Affordable housing up for grabs in New York City
Larry Nickens, a Harlem native, still remembers the day in Nov. 2022 when he won the lottery.
“I was in the bank, and I got the call from the management company...I sort of cried, not the heavy, you know, weeping, but I sincerely was that emotional,” he told News 12 New York.
Nickens didn’t hit the mega millions, but he scored a close second – a two-bedroom unit in Harlem’s Sendero Verde. It's one of 38 open affordable housing projects across the city. He says it was a major upgrade from the crammed one-bedroom unit he was sharing with his daughter, Aaliyah.
“What we’re paying is substantially more fair than market value. A two bedroom in Harlem, it’s out of control,” he said.
And he’s not off-base. According to Corcoran, the median Manhattan rent was $4,270 per month in Oct. 2023. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development oversees the bulk of affordable housing in New York City. They say lottery buildings like this are different from NYCHA public housing because these buildings are managed privately. NYCHA buildings are managed by the city.
Typically, a unit will cost 30% of a buyer's income. Ranges vary, but the ceiling for applicants is around $155,000 for a family of four in Sendero Verde, for example. The lottery is random, but there are preferences for city workers, community board members or people with different abilities. A total of 15% of units are also set aside for homeless New Yorkers.
“There are so many New Yorkers working really hard every day and rents have gone up so much faster than our incomes," said Emily Osgood, the associate commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development. "The real estate market is hot, but we really need more affordable housing for people who live and work here.”
It was recently announced that New York City will accept Section 8 applications for the first time in 15 years. Osgood says those and CityFHEPS vouchers are also accepted in the lottery buildings. But not everyone will get a spot. A building like Sendero Verde has about 350 units and could see up to 80,000 applicants. Nickens says you’ve still must apply with a positive mindset. “You only miss the shots you don’t take. It’s just getting past that negative thinking. Past that 'oh it ain’t gonna happen,'” he said. There’s currently 38 open lottery buildings across the city. The lottery for Sendero Verde ends on Feb. 9.