The Actors Fund is your one-stop shop for almost any kind of service you can imagine. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, substance abuse, financial counseling, food stamps and more. The Actors Fund is open to musicians, actors and all entertainment professionals. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or IntakeNY@ActorsFund.org or see ActorsFund.org
How can artists find the best affordable housing deals in NYC? As the manager of affordable housing initiatives at the Actors Fund, I hear from people every day about this challenge. With average rents in Manhattan over $4,000 per month, the city is in the midst of a housing crisis. But with Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build record amounts of affordable housing, it’s an important time to learn about how to apply for affordable housing.
Applying for affordable housing is a complicated process, particularly for performing artists. Eligibility for all affordable housing programs is based on annual household income, and for those with fluctuating and episodic income, it can be challenging to confidently fill out an affordable housing application. That’s where I come in. Three times a month, I give a seminar called “Applying to Affordable Housing in New York City,” where I walk participants through the process. I give particular attention to the needs of performing artists. I’m happy to announce that I’ll be giving this seminar at Local 802 on Wednesday, July 6 at 3 p.m.
Applying to affordable housing is complicated because every building has slightly different requirements. Private developers, with financial support from different public agencies, are responsible for building and managing affordable housing. But each building is built under different governmental programs with varying requirements. Each developer and management company operates differently. Several city initiatives have made the application process easier, most notably the Housing Connect web site, which streamlines the application process.
Start at www.nyc.gov/housingconnect. Create an account by clicking the “sign in” button at the top right corner. Once you have an account, create your profile, by clicking the “edit profile” button in the top right corner. Follow the prompts to enter information on your household, income and assets. Once your profile is complete, click “search” to see a list of all of the open lotteries. You can click on the name of the project to see the income requirements. By clicking the orange “apply” button, all of the information from your profile will be automatically sent to the developer of the building that you’re applying for. Be careful when you click “apply” because you cannot edit later. (But you can update your profile for the next building you apply to.)
Eligibility for affordable housing programs in NYC is based on total annual household income. For self-employed individuals with fluctuating or episodic income (like musicians), there are special guidelines. When you develop your profile at www.nyc.gov/housingconnect, there is an online calculator to help you compute your income. But while income is the most important eligibility factor, there are several others which are also considered. All of your assets – including savings, investments, and property – must be self-reported on the application. Later, you’ll hand over physical copies of this information when you go through an in-person interview.
Your credit is another factor that affects eligibility. For those who don’t know their credit score or have not looked at their credit report, I highly recommend it. You can get a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com and you can check your credit score for free at www.credkarma.com. These financial indicators are important in the affordable housing application process. It is best if your credit score is over 600.
When you fill out a housing application, it must be received by the deadline. If you’re applying online this means submitting the application by midnight on the deadline. If you’re applying by mail, that means postmarking the application by the deadline date. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t help you to get your application in early. The reason is this. Once the deadline has passed, the city will run a randomized computer program that will assign every application a “log number,” which is the order in which the applications are reviewed. This log number is random and doesn’t relate to when you turned in your application. It only matters that you turned it in before the deadline.
If you apply via www.nyc.gov/housingconnect, you will be able to see your log number once the lottery has been held. Each eligible tenant will be asked to come in for an in-person interview and will have to bring a long list of documents, which you’ll know in advance.
If you are sent a letter stating you are not eligible for the building , you can appeal to the developer and later to the city. You must provide additional documentation to try to prove your case, and I am available to help with appeals if you do receive such a letter.
The Actors Fund itself currently operates two affordable housing buildings in New York City that have preferences for working professionals in the performing arts. The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence (formerly the Aurora) on the corner of West 57th Street and 11th Avenue in Manhattan has 178 units of shared affordable housing. Individuals with annual incomes between $17,000 and $36,300 pay a monthly rent of $645. The Schermerhorn at 160 Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn has 216 studio units. Individuals with annual incomes between $21,770 and $36,300 pay a monthly rent of $635. The waiting lists for the buildings are short – you can download an application at www.actorsfund.org/housing.
If you cannot attend one of my in-person seminars on applying for affordable housing, you can view our online tutorial at www.actorsfund.org/e-learning. And check out our housing bulletin board at www.actorsfund.org/bulletinboard. We also have a new seminar called “Apartment Hunting 101: Strategies for Finding Housing in New York City” on the last Friday of every month from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at 729 Seventh Avenue on the 10th floor. For more info, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 221-7300, ext. 126.
The affordable housing process is not simple, but the Actors Fund is here to help you navigate the ins and outs. I hope to see many of you at Local 802 on July 6 and answer all of your questions.