Finding Affordable Apartments
For help preparing an application for affordable housing contact a New York City Housing Ambassador, community-based service providers located throughout the five boroughs. Click here for a list of Housing Ambassadors.
This section serves as a guide to individuals and families who are looking for housing through a subsidy program and/or through their own financial resources.
Our Housing Resource Center has comprehensive information on finding affordable housing.
For help finding an apartment contact a Housing Ambassador – community organizations that help people prepare and apply for affordable housing.
Ready to Rent is a New York City program that helps New Yorkers prepare to apply for affordable housing. It provides free one-on-one financial counseling and assistance with affordable housing applications. To schedule a one-on-one financial counseling session, call 311 and ask for “Ready to Rent.” For assistance applying for affordable housing through NYC Housing Connect, schedule an appointment with a Housing Ambassador who can help you apply for housing lotteries, gather information in case your number comes up, and get ready to show that you qualify. To make an appointment, contact a Housing Ambassador directly.
Victims of domestic violence receiving services at a Family Justice Center in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx or Manhattan may also be eligible for New Destiny’s HousingLink program which offers assistance to apartment seekers and helps them to secure permanent housing. Click here to learn more about HousingLink.
Register at NYC Housing Connect. At this website, you can search for available housing and sign up to receive an email when affordable apartments become available. Read more about Housing Connect here.
- Start your apartment search by figuring out what neighborhoods and rent levels are realistic and what income you need. NYC HPD’s Income Guide can help you determine your income is calculated for affordable housing.
- The government suggests that a family’s rent should equal between 30-40% of the household’s income to be considered affordable.
- Many real estate brokers and landlords require that a family earn 40 times the monthly rent per year to qualify for an apartment. For example if an apartment costs $1000 per month, you should earn about $40,000 per year to be considered.
- You should consider neighborhoods where rent levels match what is affordable to you and your family.
- Victims of domestic violence should also consider if the neighborhood is safe and in a location where it is unlikely the abuser will track them down.
- HPD partners with “Housing Ambassadors” — community based service providers in New York City who help people preapre and apply for affordable housing. People looking for additional support with their housing search are encouraged to reach out to these organizations.
Find a Real Estate Broker
The most traditional route to finding an apartment is to use a real estate broker. Brokers act as middle-men in connecting prospective tenants and landlords. For their services, they usually charge about 15% of the annual rent as their fee. If you decide to work with a broker, keep the following in mind:
- Do not pay a broker any fees until you have signed the lease for an apartment
- Choose another broker if your broker is asking for a fee above 15% of annual rent
- Never pay any broker’s fees with cash (use a check or pay with a money order to ensure that there is a clear record of any payments you make)
- Public assistance may not cover the entire fee. Currently, HRA is only approving requests for half of one month’s rent.
You can find the names of brokers in print or online classifieds, in the local phone book, or walking around individual neighborhoods.
- Some realtors and housing developers also maintain their own websites with listings of apartments and the programs accepted. Sites include www.programrentals.com, Barron Rentals, Frank Lasker Realty and Lemle and Wolff.
If you have any concerns about your broker, you can verify that he/she is a licensed broker by calling New York State’s Division of Licensing Services at 212-471-5747.
Searching the Internet
A number of resources can be found online to help prospective tenants link to apartment vacancies.
If you are unfamiliar with using the Internet, you should visit your local library to see if they can help get you onto the Internet and help set up an email account.
As a rule, you should only use websites that provide housing information for free. Some websites will ask for a fee before providing information that might be available for free another website.
Online Real Estate Search Sites:
Keep in mind that many of these sites are message boards that allow landlords and brokers to post apartments and prospective tenants to search for apartments without any charge. Keep in mind that these are self-posted notices. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it might be.
Online Newspaper Classifieds:
Free newspaper listings can be a good source of apartment leads.
Affordable Housing Websites:
- NYC Housing Connect
- HPD Housing Ambassadors
- New Jersey Housing Resource Center
- NYCHA maintains online listings of Section 8 apartments
- Department of Housing Preservation and Development
- NYC Housing Development Corporation
- Association for Neighborhood Housing Development
- New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal
Search in the Neighborhood
In addition to searching online, there are also many options for searching for housing off of the Internet. Here are a couple suggestions of resources you should use in the neighborhood to which you are hoping to move.
- Look in local and cultural newspapers for specific neighborhood listings.
- Find the local library and find out about other local newspapers and resources for finding housing.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood and look for realty offices and “for rent” signs.
- Identify local nonprofits and government representatives that might know about housing resources in the neighborhood. You can find information about the New York City Council Member for a specific neighborhood at the New York City Council website.
In general, the more people you can speak to in the neighborhood, the better your chances of finding an apartment.
Interviewing with Landlords/Brokers
Because of the tight housing market in New York City, it is very important to make a good impression on a landlord. Every meeting is an interview when you meet with landlords or brokers. They are looking at you to see if you will be the right tenant for their apartment.
- You should be prepared to answer questions about yourself, your family and your apartment history.
- Some of the questions you will be asked might be difficult to answer, but you have to come up with an answer that will satisfy the landlord’s concerns.
- In order to have the best chance of getting the apartment that you want, prepare answers to possible questions in advance and think about ways to answer the questions that will cast you in the best light as a prospective tenant.
Answering Landlord Questions
The questions below have been asked by landlords in the past. Although they may make you uncomfortable, if you are interested in renting a particular apartment, you may want to answer the questions asked of you as honestly as possible while presenting yourself in the best light. What are your answers to some of these questions?
- Do you pay your bills on time?
- Are you planning on getting a job? Have you worked before?
- Would you bring anyone here that uses or sells drugs?
- Where was the last place that you lived? Were you on the lease?
- Why did you leave your last apartment?
- Have you ever been to housing court?
- How is your credit history?
- Do you have an order of protection?
- Are you going to bring the batterer here?
- Are you going to have another child?
- How often do you clean your apartment?
- How would you describe yourself as a tenant?
- Are your kids in school?
- What references do you have?
Housing Interview Tips
- Call ahead to confirm your meeting time and place
- Compile all required documentation or information the landlord requested
- Wear clothing that is comfortable, clean and conservative
- Always be on time – if you are meeting with a landlord or a broker
- If you are going to be late, call to let the landlord know
- Act like every conversation you have with the landlord is an interview
- Answer questions with examples that show that you are a responsible person. For example, if you have children, you can use your responsibilities as a mother to demonstrate that you are a reliable person
- Have an outline of important items you want to learn about the apartment, the landlord and the neighborhood
- Bring paper and a pen along with a list of questions you want to ask the landlord and write down the answers to your questions
- Present a positive attitude
- Make eye contact
- Do not bring children if possible or do your best to make sure they are well-behaved
NOTE: Although it is important that you present your tenancy in the best possible light, you should never do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Keep your own mental and physical health in mind as you go through this process. There are many brokers and landlords who are out there to help you find an apartment, but there are others who may not act as ethically.
Addressing Bad Credit
One particular issue that many domestic violence survivors encounter is bad credit. If you do have a bad credit history, the landlord will most likely find this out when they do a credit search. You can do things now to improve your credit.
- Face any credit history issues and take positive steps to address bad credit
- Download your credit report from the federal government’s three major credit-reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com
- Improve your credit history by contacting an advocate who can recommend appropriate steps to address credit issues. Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners and The Financial Clinic are nonprofit organizations that offer free assistance.
- NYC Housing Ambassadors and financial counselors offer free financial counseling throughout the city. Click here for contact information and a calendar of events. You can also schedule a one-on-one financial counseling session directly by calling 311 and asking for “financial counseling for affordable housing.”
- New York City’s Financial Empowerment Centers have professional, financial counselors who can help you with a range of issues. Click here to schedule an appointment at a Financial Empowerment Center.