Testimony

The Real Estate Board of New York to The New York City Council Housing & Buildings Committee

Ryan Monell

Director of City Legislative Affairs

September 12, 2021

Intro 1817 would establish new rules for housing lotteries including that HPD must ensure that applicants for affordable housing receive written notification stating whether they are accepted or rejected for occupancy in an affordable housing unit, be given sufficient time and information to respond to developers’ requests for information and to appeal a rejection and be made aware of community-based service providers that may assist the applicant. The legislation also establishes that applicants may file a complaint with HPD or the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), as applicable, if they believe their application was rejected in error. The bill also proposes that HPD provide guidance to developers regarding information it may consider in selecting applicants, specifically prohibiting developers from considering photographs of an applicant’s current living situation or minor children’s report cards, prohibiting developers from rejecting applicants based solely on credit score, and requiring developers consider all sources of an applicant’s income. Finally, the bill establishes that HPD will provide developers training regarding applicant selection and maintain a compliance hotline for use by developers.

REBNY appreciates the Council’s continued focus on NYC Housing Connect and affordable housing lotteries and welcomes opportunities to work together to further fair housing and housing access. This is particularly relevant considering New York City has an ongoing affordable housing crisis.

However, REBNY believes that Intro 1817 could have the unintended consequence of making the housing lottery process more rigid and arduous and will only postpone the renting of desperately needed affordable housing units. Specifically, the requirement that marketing agents provide every applicant written notification if selected or not, as well as the requirement to send copies of these notices to HPD and HDC are burdensome, unnecessary, and costly. Currently, marketing agents are already required to provide notice to applicants who submit paper applications and the new NYC Housing Connect system automatically notifies applicants. These requirements, in combination with an over 30-day appeal process, would be administratively burdensome, and the appeals process extension likely would lead to available affordable units being left vacant for an unnecessarily lengthy period as that process unfolds.

Furthermore, much of what is called for in this legislation is already required under HPD’s existing fair housing rules, particularly as it relates to privacy, credit history and source of income discrimination. REBNY asks that the Council consider how this legislation interacts with and is duplicative of existing law. REBNY also suggests that the Council remove vagaries in the law that request marketing agents provide information to tenants regarding community-based service providers, without elucidating specifically which type of information they are intending to make more available to housing applicants.

Notwithstanding these concerns, Intro 1817 does provide certain sensible solutions to problems those familiar with affordable housing lotteries may have experienced. One sensible idea is the establishment of a compliance hotline for the purpose of providing information and guidance to marketing agents. Another is ensuring that marketing agents attend and receive sufficient in-person or online training regarding the resident selection process for housing units.

As REBNY and its members engage everyday with applicants of housing lotteries across the city, we look forward to continuing to discuss this legislation with the Council in the hope that we can continue to create affordable housing access opportunities for New Yorkers.