Monday, December 22, 2014

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NY1's Grace Rauh takes a closer look at the mayor's plans and the hurdles to building and accessing affordable housing in the five boroughs.

Brick by Brick: Strict Qualifications Present Additional Hurdle to Landing Affordable Housing

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For low-income New Yorkers struggling to pay the rent, new affordable housing options should provide some relief. Competition to land the lower-cost apartments is fierce, however, and only a fraction of New Yorkers in need actually meet landlords' often-strict qualifications. NY1's Grace Rauh has the story in part three of her affordable housing series, "Brick by Brick."

The race for affordable housing in the city is an amazingly crowded one. Fifty-two thousand people applied for 89 new affordable apartments at a development in East Harlem.

Nearly 60,000 applications poured in for 105 affordable units on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

Rob Solano, of Churches United for Fair Housing, tries to help low-income New Yorkers land coveted subsidized apartments.

"I think the way folks are surviving these days is teaming up with family members. So we have eight to nine to sometimes 10 people in a two-bedroom apartment," Solano says. "And they don't want to live that way. So it's extremely desperate.

It is hard work, though. There are tight income restrictions for would-be tenants.

At one building in East Harlem, for example, a family of four needs to earn between $35,000 and $50,000 to qualify for an apartment. A single person must make $19,000 to $35,000 a year.

New Yorkers who do meet the financial requirements often struggle to meet landlord expectations when it comes to things like their credit score.

"What we really want is to look beyond the number, really look at holistic, someone's credit, and say, 'What's wrong? Was it because you didn't submit some sort of loans, medical bills?'" Solano says.

The president of the Real Estate Board of New York, Steve Spinola, admits the restrictions can be problematic.

"On the other hand, we're filling these units up very easily, but it is a long process, and it's a careful process that is done by developers," says Spinola.

It means that there is little wiggle room for affordable housing applicants, like the one Solano is helping.

"I applied to a couple of different buildings, and this is the third one. It's the one that I want. So I am excited about getting it," says Oluwashina Alaka, an affordable housing applicant.

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