Section 8 and Other Low Income Rental Housing in New York City
Finding low income housing in New York City can provide a special challenge. There are a few types of low income housing: Section 8 vouchers, affordable housing developments, or specific apartments set aside in otherwise "market-rate" buildings as affordable housing.
Often, landlords do not advertise that they accept Section 8 vouchers. If it is not indicated in an apartment listing on Urban Edge whether or not they accept Section 8, our best advice is to call or email the property manager or owner and ask them. While this may seem very time consuming (it is), you may otherwise miss out on a nice apartment.
Getting Apartments Through the Section 8 Program
New York City's Section 8 Program—also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program--allows low-income families to find and select their own privately-owned (as opposed to city-owned) apartment, in whichever neighborhood they choose, and receive federally-funded subsidies to help with the rent.
To receive housing assistance through the Section 8 Program, the cost of the rental apartment you wish to move into must be considered reasonable as compared to other homes in the area, and it must meet the Housing Quality Standards set down by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Who's Eligible for Section 8?
Low income housing through the Section 8 Program is available to families whose household income falls within Section 8 requirements—and your income is considered alongside your Area Median Income, as opposed to comparing what you make to those residing in New York City as a whole--although it's a bit of two-step process.
Currently offered only through the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (the NYC Housing Authority Section 8 Program has closed its waitlist for now), HPD Section 8 vouchers are available for families who are currently homeless; families who reside in city-owned housing that is such a state of disrepair or in need of such substantial renovation that alternate living conditions must found; families who were in buildings taken over by HPD and rebuilt. For information and assistance on all Section 8 matters, please see the New York City Housing Authority website.
The federal- state- and city-funded Mitchell-Lama program, in place since 1955, provides affordable apartments for rent to moderate- and middle-income families. There are currently 132 Mitchell-Lama apartment buildings in New York City, containing approximately 54,000 units. There are generally safe, well-maintained buildings in desirable neighborhoods with rents that are considerably below market value for families that meet the application requirements. Needless to say, there are waiting lists of interested families at each Mitchell-Lama development, often years-long, but these cheap apartments do open up, and people do get called. If you're interested, a good place to start is the affordable housing section of the nyc.gov website.
New York City Public Housing
The New York City Housing Authority currently manages and maintains nearly 350 public housing developments, with more than 180,000 units home to some 535,000 people. Although the NYCHA strives to provide safe, clean, and decent low income housing in all of its locations, results can be mixed. To apply for a space in a public housing development, you need to fill out an application—available online, in person at designated Customer Contact Centers, or by mail—in which you select the borough in which you'd prefer to live (first and second choice), and provide information about your current household income, family makeup, and your present living situation. For more information and to download the Public Housing application, please see the NYCHA website.