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City holds town hall on Ready to Rent program for affordable housing

The city is holding town hall meetings to help residents navigate the lottery process for low-income housing across the city. The next meeting in the area will be held on March 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Urban Health Plan, 1054 Simpson St.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, in partnership with City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., held the most recent “resource fair” on March 1. The meeting centered on educating applicants on how to strengthen their financial standings in preparation to submit a stronger application for affordable housing through the city’s housing web portal, NYC Housing Connect.

The city has partnered with ARIVA, a nonprofit organization that offers free financial counseling and coaching to low and moderate-income New York City residents, to help lead the discussion. The city’s initiative, Ready to Rent, links applicants to meet one-on-one with an ARIVA financial counselor to review their credit history, calculate household income, and save for moving expenses. After assessing their financial profiles, applicants meet with a housing ambassador to apply for housing, and if selected, gather and submit documentation for confirmation.

Since affordable housing applications are selected by lottery, waiting to hear if an application is selected can be a slow-moving ordeal, taking from two to 10 months after the housing deadline. If an application is selected, an appointment is set by the housing developer. The appointment does not guarantee that the applicant will receive housing until his or her eligibility is verified.

The city recently analyzed the applications of rejected applicants in the hopes of determining what residents need to navigate the process. As a result, the city decided it needed to give potential applicants access to financial preparation in advance, so the housing department is running this program.

During the presentation, the ARIVA representative discussed the impact of a credit score, stressing the importance of paying debt on time and saving for moving expenses. He also stated a credit score of 580 or higher is what 85 percent of property managers look for.

When meeting one-on-one with a ARIVA financial counselor, an applicant’s credit score and report is pulled from TransUnion, one of the three leading credit bureaus. Applicants who have filed for bankruptcy in the past two years or account balances with past due payments over $500 will automatically be rejected.

One of the applicants in attendance was Olga Bayde, 38, a single mother and domestic violence survivor who has been applying for lottery housing for almost 20 years. Despite the 30-minute presentation, she left with lingering questions.

“The information that was provided was okay,” she said. “Besides your credit what else can you do? What do they look for?”

About three years ago, Bayde was selected for housing for the first time but her application was rejected due to filing for bankruptcy a few years prior. Bayde thinks the city should hold more meetings on housing assistance, but have local elected officials also attend so they could be an additional source of support for residents.

Despite the mysteries of the housing lottery system applicants like Bayde still face, she said she will continue to be an active applicant.

“You just keep applying,” Bayde said. “It’s all about luck.”

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