June 21, 2021

This is What We Do: Housing Connect Assistance for Bronx Residents #ViewsNWBX

by UNHP

For years New Yorkers have been living through an affordable housing crisis. The city has always had a high cost of living, but the rent burden faced by its residents has increasingly made life in the city untenable for many. Through the Northwest Bronx Resource Center (NWBRC), UNHP has seen the effects of ever-rising rents on Bronx residents, and their continued interest in finding affordable, decent housing. One of the most popular programs at the Resource Center is helping users apply for the NYC housing lottery called Housing Connect.UNHP has been an HPD Housing Ambassador since 2017 and has helped thousands of Bronx residents understand and apply for the lottery. We wanted to take a deeper look at the NYC Housing Connect program and its effectiveness in providing housing that is accessible to Bronxites. UNHP has posted two blogs looking at the program as a whole and then narrowing in on how households in the Northwest Bronx are affected. These posts are part of the What We Do: UNHP & Mission series of events that illustrate what we do at UNHP and an effort to raise funds for that effort.

This two-part series on Housing Connect was co-authored by Anna Canero, Program Coordinator with the Northwest Bronx Resource Center, and Caroline Kirk, UNHP Data Analyst. Through UNHP’s unique position as a direct service provider, affordable housing researcher, and nonprofit developer, we are able to take a comprehensive look at the Housing Connect program and see whether the affordable housing in the lottery is truly serving the needs of our neighborhood.

Part One: Analyzing Affordability in the NYC Lottery: An Overview of Housing Connect

Part one provides an overview of NYC Housing Connect—what the program entails, its housing goals, and how “affordable” income is calculated. Analysis of past lotteries in the Northwest Bronx shows that pricing and availability of housing do not match the needs of most community members. Using available research from community organizations, UNHP discusses possible reasons for the mismatch between Housing Connect units in the Bronx and what residents can afford.

Part Two: The Long Journey of the Lottery: Northwest Bronx Residents Share Their Housing Connect Experience

While part one gives a high-level and quantitative overview of NYC Housing Connect, part two hones in on the application experiences of our Northwest Bronx residents. The discrepancies between neighborhood need and lottery availability manifest into a long and arduous Housing Connect process for most. UNHP surveyed our Resource Center program users and volunteers on what applying through the years has been like and if they are optimistic about gaining affordable housing through the lottery.

For a Future Post - Housing Connect from a Community-Based Developers Point of View

UNHP hopes to reflect on the new way that NYC Housing Connect is being used by NYC based on our current experience with existing affordable housing properties in our portfolio. NYC HPD has begun using Housing Connect to rent up publicly supported re-rental units in the lottery system. Previously, Housing Connect only had newly-constructed units in its system. However, developers that have new regulatory agreements with the city must now list their vacancies with the lottery. While the change opens up more units for New Yorkers, this new process of re-renting has been frustrating for UNHP as a community-based housing developer. UNHP will share how that process has been working as we begin our first re-rentals via Housing Connect in 2022.

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