Affordable Apartment Primer
by Kristen L. Rouse
Affordable housing is a top priority for our NYC veterans community, and we get frequent questions from veterans who need help with navigating NYC’s rental market. Below is information intended to inform our community and assist them with improving their situation; this list is not comprehensive.
FIND & APPLY FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
NY State Housing Search. View available affordable home and apartment rentals by county in NY State. After clicking on the county you wish to search in, you will have the option to indicate that you are either a veteran and/or receiving VASH.
NYC Connect. View available affordable NYC apartments in NYC, apply for housing lotteries, and learn more from NYC government’s portal for apartment seekers.
Veteran-Specific NYC Housing Help. Veterans and family members at risk of homelessness may be eligible for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) assistance or other aid. Contact NYServes to learn more at 1-844-347-9244.
Seminars. NYC’s housing programs and applications can be confusing, but CUFFH (Churches United for Fair Housing) breaks it down each Tuesday, 6:30 PM, at Sacred Heart Church, 41 Adelphi St, Brooklyn. All are welcome; this is not a religious meeting—just good advice on how to make NYC’s housing programs work for you. Learn more and RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RENT FREEZE ELIGIBILITY FOR DISABLED VETERANS
DID YOU KNOW? If you are disabled (including ANY service-connected disability rating by the VA, which qualifies as “federal disability assistance”) AND if you live in rent controlled or stabilized housing AND you meet low-income criteria, you may be eligible for NYC’s rent freeze program for disabled persons. If you are elderly, low-income, and living in rent controlled or stabilized housing, you may be eligible for NYC’s rent freeze program for seniors. Learn more and apply: www.nyc.gov/rentfreeze
IS YOUR APARTMENT RENT STABILIZED?
Am I Rent Stabilized? About half of NYC apartments are rent stabilized, yet an estimated 45% of tenants in these apartments are being illegally overcharged. Are you one of them? Go to amirentstabilized.com and enter your address to find out. If an immediate answer isn’t on file, the site walks you through the process of requesting rent history on your apartment so you can see if you’re being charged higher than what is legally permitted. (Note: rental histories are kept on file by NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal, but are not tracked or investigated unless a tenant files a complaint.)
J-51 Buildings. One among many reasons why tenants are being overcharged is a lapse in J-51 abatement requirements—which permitted landlords to raise the rents of 50,000 rent-stabilized apartments for years before being ruled illegal—but many landlords never reverted back to legal rent amounts, and NYS DHCR hasn’t enforced the ruling. Read more on J-51 at ProPublica, and find out if your building might be a J-51.
EMPOWERING NYC TENANTS
Landlord& Building Ratings. Want to see how your past, present, or prospective landlord rates according to official city data? Rentlogic is a new online tool (still in beta) that empowers tenants with data collected by NYC government on each landlord and building. Properties are still being added, and you can help by writing a review. We’d especially like to see our community adding reviews to Rentlogic mentioning veteran-specific housing issues like HUD-VASH, GI Bill, and VA disability/pension acceptance.
Keep the Heat On. NYC landlords are required to keep apartment temperatures above 55 degrees at night and 68 degrees during the day between October 1 and May 31, but thousands of New Yorkers go through the winter with inadequate or no heat, and fear retaliation from landlords if they complain to 311. Heatseek is a new nonprofit program that will place heat sensors to track and transmit impartial, continuous data to hold landlords accountable. Learn more about the pilot program and sign up to receive a sensor once available to the general public: http://app.heatseek.org/resources.
Make Your Case. The city’s process for tenants to address building and landlord complaints can be long and complicated, and often favors landlords. JustFixNYC is a new app that will help tenants make their case in a simpler, faster, and much more effective way. Learn more about this pilot, connect with immediate help, and get notified when the app is available to the general public: http://beta.justfix.nyc/
Using 311. All New Yorkers can call 311 for information and to register complaints, and we advise callers to record the confirmation number(s) given to them by the 311 operator they speak with as documentation for further action.
Resolve Your Complaint. You can register a NYC housing complaint by calling 311, but you can also seek resolution by contacting the NYC Public Advocate at email@example.com or 212-669-7250.