The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at MAP@Local802afm.org or (212) 397-4802
Finding a place to live in New York City is a job within itself. Between the high rents and the competition, the search can be incredibly stressful. Add to that being a freelance musician with the unpredictability of income and you have a recipe for a big headache.
We have no control over the cost of rent or the amount of people who want to live and work here. What we do have control over is how informed we are about the resources that exist and how organized we are in our planning. This month, I’ve compiled some helpful tools and information for those of you on the hunt.
First, here are some basic guidelines for organizing yourself for the long haul:
GET YOUR FINANCIALS AND HOUSING HISTORY
Whether you’re applying for subsidized housing, a rental unit in a market-rate building, or a private home, you’re going to need to show the following.
Proof of income. This means finding a copy of your tax returns for last year or getting all of your W2 and 1099 forms for the past three years. For those of you getting paid in cash, it might actually be in your best interest to start creating more of a financial record so that you are in a better position to qualify for housing. Tax returns can serve as proof of income for workers paid in cash. (If you do get paid in cash, here’s a tip. Every time you’re paid in cash, deposit the full amount of it into the bank, even if you are going to immediately withdraw it again. This way, you can look at your bank statements at the end of the year and tally up your total earnings to declare on your taxes.)
Good credit. Check your credit reports (once a year for free at www.AnnualCreditReport.com) and your credit score (www.CreditKarma.com). Follow up on any inaccuracies in your credit reports immediately. If you have no credit history or a history of unpaid debt, debts in collections, late payments, or a large amount of debt relative to your income, you should meet with a representative at your local bank to discuss ways to establish or improve your credit. Please remember that any Local 802 member may join the Actors Federal Credit Union, which has a branch on the fourth floor of the Local 802 buildling. See www.ActorsFCU.org. Another resource is Amanda Clayman, a social worker at the Actors Fund who provides financial wellness counseling to musicians and other artists. She can be reached at Aclayman@ActorsFund.org or (212) 221-7300, ext. 184.
Good references. Try to maintain a good relationship with your current landlord and hold onto his or her contact information once you’ve left. If you hate your landlord, make friends with your building super instead – sometimes he may know of other apartments and can be a source of referrals!
LOOKING FOR A APARTMENT: THE BASICS
These days it’s all about the internet. Here are a few search engines for no-fee apartments or roommates.
Craigslist. The old standby still is your best bet when looking for no-fee apartments and when looking for a roommate. Some tips: You can specify your search by neighborhood so you don’t have to comb through all the listings in one borough. You should also check fairly often. Good rentals go quickly and landlords know that, so they expect you to be ready sometimes the same day. However, trust your instincts and beware of scams. Use caution and good judgment.
Social networking. Sharing the word with all your friends and acquaintances through Facebook and Twitter that you are looking for a place or a roommate is often the best way to find a good situation.
New sites. Try www.apartable.com, www.NakedApartments.com or www.StreetEasy.com. These sites give you a lot more information about available apartments, like what the actual address is and what date it will be available. Listings are in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
The Listings Project at www.ListingsProject.com. This is a grassroots web site for rentals, roommates or sublets. This site costs money to place listings on, so that fact in and of itself may screen you from some of the crazies who might lurk on free sites.
The Actors Fund Housing Bulletin Board. The Actors Fund has an online bulletin board for performing artists who are looking for a roommate, to share, to rent, or sublet to other artists. Start at www.ActorsFund.org. Click on “Services and Programs,” then “Housing,” then “Housing Bulleting Board.
Have you heard about housing lotteries? How do you apply? Where are they? Who qualifies? How do you find them? Do buildings for artists exist anymore? Finding out the answers to all these questions might sound like a daunting task, but luckily as a musician and as a Local 802 member you have access to the monthly housing seminar at the Actors Fund. Rebecca Sauer runs this free workshop that walks you through affordable housing options (including “80/20” buildings), helps you determine eligibility, and prepares you for the application process. Reservations are not necessary – just show up! (Please note that immediate or emergency housing solutions will not be addressed). The next seminars are Monday, Feb. 3 and Monday, March 3. Each one takes place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Actors Fund, 729 Seventh Avenue between 48th and 49th. Also look out for one of these seminars coming to Local 802 soon – we’ll keep you in the loop!
COME TALK TO US!
If you are unhappy with where you live or simply would like to know more about your options or any of the above resources, give us a call at the MAP office, at (212) 397-4802. We have social workers here to help guide you in finding the best options.
p.s. Did you know that there’s housing for single artists in downtown Brooklyn where the rent is as low as $635 per month? It’s a project of the Actors Fund, and it’s for musicians and all entertainers. Start at www.ActorsFund.org. Click on “Services and Programs,” then “Housing,” then “The Schermerhorn.”