During its last full-body meeting of the year, the New York City Council passed a bill Tuesday that makes it easier for low-income renters to find apartments by creating a user-friendly online portal. Under the new legislation, landlords who receive tax breaks in exchange for renting below-market units will be required to register units each year with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the department would list these units online and match potential tenants by their income with apartments.
The current search feature on NYC Housing Connect
Currently, the city runs a website called NYC Housing Connect that lets users create a profile, search open housing lotteries and sometimes apply to the income-restricted buildings directly. After the housing lottery’s deadline, applications are reviewed, and if selected, applicants will be interviewed to determine eligibility.
The goal of the legislation is to make the housing lottery application and search process more efficient and transparent for renters. Applicants would be able to track their application’s progress online and see their place on the waiting lists. By 2021, residents will be able to verify if the rent landlords are charging is legal.
Council Member Benjamin Kallos, who was a lead sponsor on the bill, called Housing Connect “incredibly broken” because it doesn’t match renters with available units. Following the passage of Kallos’ bill, the HPD said it will upgrade and expand the capabilities of their website.
The final version of the bill does help the city enforce rent limits for apartments that are not income-restricted, although Kallos originally hoped to apply it to other rent-regulated units. Aaron Carr of the nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative told the WSJ that renters in rent-stabilized suffer the most under the new bill. “Tens of thousands of units in the buildings receiving those benefits have been illegally removed from rent stabilization,” Carr said.