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Nkenge, a native New Yorker, had always dreamed of living in the affluent neighborhood of Manhattan’s Flatiron, despite the high rent prices. However, her dream became a reality when she was selected for a one-bedroom apartment through the city’s housing lottery program after submitting over 120 applications. This program helps residents find affordable housing, with rent-stabilized apartments available to those whose housing costs do not exceed 30% of their income. The city’s Rent Guidelines Board determines the rate at which rent can increase in these apartments.

Nkenge began applying to the housing lottery in 2020 in an effort to reduce her rent costs from $1,900 to around $1,000 per month. Her yearly income had to fall within a specific range to qualify for the lottery, and she provided proof of income through bank statements, invoices, and tax forms. After being selected, Nkenge was shown three apartments, ultimately choosing a one-bedroom unit in Manhattan that came with a washer and dryer and access to shared amenities such as a gym, game room, and rooftop. She spent about $7,000 furnishing her new apartment.

The market rate for apartments in Nkenge’s building starts at $5,903 per month, but she was able to secure her unit at a reduced rate of $997 per month due to the affordable housing designation. This has allowed her to save money for future expenses such as owning a home, retirement, and life insurance. Despite this significant change in her living situation, Nkenge acknowledges that gaining access to affordable housing can be challenging, especially for marginalized populations who may not have established connections within the housing market.

Since moving into her rent-stabilized apartment, Nkenge’s quality of life has improved, providing her with stability and financial freedom. She views her current living situation as a stepping stone towards her goal of purchasing a home within the next five years. By taking advantage of her low rent costs, she is able to save for the future and enjoy a better quality of life. Nkenge believes that increasing access to affordable housing programs, especially for individuals from underrepresented communities, is crucial in providing opportunities for economic advancement and stability.

The housing lottery program has been instrumental in supporting residents like Nkenge in finding affordable housing in high-cost areas such as New York City. By offering reduced rent options through rent-stabilized apartments, the program enables individuals to save money, plan for their future, and improve their overall quality of life. Despite the challenges of accessing these opportunities, the impact of affordable housing on individuals’ well-being and financial security is significant and highlights the importance of expanding access to these programs for a wider range of residents.

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