Public housing run by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) provides affordable housing options for low- and middle-income residents in New York City. As long as you are a U.S. citizen or with eligible immigration status (such as a permanent resident or having refugee/asylum status), or at least one member of your household is a U.S. citizen or a non-citizen with eligible immigration status, you can apply. This article introduces how to apply for public housing in New York City and other tips. It is part of Documented’s comprehensive resource guide for immigrants in New York.
What is public housing?
Public housing is a government housing program that allows people to live in residential buildings at low rents or for free. Public housing is usually limited to low-income families and the rental housing is owned by government entities, not private landlords. Sometimes, tenants have the option to buy the public housing they live in, but they need to meet certain requirements, and the sale requires approval from the Public Housing Authority.
New York City’s public housing is owned and operated by NYCHA, which also administers the Section 8 rental assistance program within New York City. The housing developed by the NYCHA includes single and double-family homes, apartment units, singular floors, and shared small building units. More than 400,000 residents of New York City live in 178,895 units of public housing apartments across the five boroughs, and the waiting list for this housing has over 160,000 applications.
What is the difference between public housing and Section 8?
Although both public housing and Section 8 are government-funded programs, public housing is only for apartments that are owned and operated by NYCHA, while Section 8 can help eligible people rent privately owned apartments, and the housing assistance payments will be paid to private landlords. Please note that the Section 8 waiting list is currently closed and no longer accepts new applicants.
Public housing rent and related fees
The rent for public housing is determined based on 30% of the anticipated total income of the resident’s household after taking into account any applicable deductions. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations allow deductions of $480 for each dependent; $400 for elderly family or disabled individuals; and some medical expenses can be deducted for households headed by elderly or disabled individuals.
Most public housing rents include gas and electricity. If the public housing you rent does not include utilities, you will need to pay these fees directly. However, you can get a utility allowance, and your monthly rent will be the cost after the allowance is deducted.
Eligibility requirements for application
If you want to apply for public housing in New York City, you must meet the following conditions:
At least one person in the household is a U.S. citizen or has a legal immigrant status (e.g. permanent resident, refugee, or asylum status).
- You are 18 years old or an emancipated minor.
- If you are applying with someone (a spouse or domestic partner), they must be 18 years old or an emancipated minor.
- If you want to apply for senior public housing, you and everyone living with you must be at least 62 years old.
- Meet NYCHA’s definition of a family, which includes: two or more people related by blood, marriage, domestic partnership, adoption, guardianship, or court-awarded custody; or you are a single person.
- Your household income must also meet the following income limits.
How to apply?
You can apply online or by mail. If you want to apply online, please visit NYCHA’s website to submit the application. Once completed, you will receive a case number and be placed on the waiting list for eligibility interviews. You can check the status of your application at any time using the self-service portal. You will need to register and log in.
NYCHA encourages people to apply online, but if you want to submit a paper application, you can call the NYCHA’s Consumer Contact Center at 718-707-7771 to request a paper application.
You do not need to submit any documents to apply for public housing. If you receive an interview notice, you will need to bring the following original documents to the interview: marriage certificate or domestic partnership certificate (if applicable); birth certificate of everyone who will live with you; social security cards of everyone who will live with you; Proof of your immigration status (if applicable); proof of your current address, such as a recent utility bill; rent receipts for the past six months and your lease (if applicable); your recent gas and electric bills; your income documents (if any), such as an award letter, pay stubs, or SNAP letter; documents showing your assets, such as bank statements.
What is the process after submitting the application?
The most recent information you provide in the public housing application system will determine when NYCHA may be able to invite you for an eligibility interview, so if your circumstances change, you should immediately notify NYCHA. NYCHA selects applicants for eligibility interviews based on your borough choice, apartment size, housing priority, and application date.
However, because there are many families on the waiting list, and the turnover and vacancy rates for public housing are low, it is impossible to estimate when you will be selected for an eligibility interview.
After you have been preliminarily determined to be eligible for public housing following your eligibility interview, NYCHA will notify you that you have been placed on the waiting list for the selected borough or public housing. When an apartment becomes available that fits your criteria, NYCHA will conduct a criminal background check for everyone in your household who is 16 years or older. If everyone passes the criminal background check, NYCHA will offer you an apartment. If someone in your household fails the criminal background check, you will not be able to move into the apartment, and NYCHA will send you a letter telling you what your next steps are. If you do not respond to the letter, NYCHA will no longer consider your application.
For more information, please visit the Access NYC website.