New Yorkers applying for affordable apartments now have the choice to avoid credit checks. On August 21, 2019, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Housing Development Corporation announced major changes to Housing Preservation and Development’s affordable housing lottery application. The expanded guidelines will increase access for more New Yorkers to qualify for affordable housing. This change will have an immediate impact for some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Besides offering the option to show positive rental history instead of submitting to credit checks, or provide their own credit checks, the new guidelines will also allow for additional occupants per unit.
The new policies will reduce the chances of a tenant being denied a unit due to poor credit history. Specifically, an applicant may provide twelve months of positive rent payment history rather than a landlord-initiated credit check. Applicants may also apply for affordable housing without the need to provide a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for every adult in the household.
Former State rent laws, which limited credit check fees to $20 per application are now replaced with the new policy which lowers credit check fees or may allow applicants to avoid fees altogether by providing a recent credit check to the landlord.
The new policy also broadens the range of unit sizes for which households can qualify by increasing the permitted number of occupants per unit. This step will remove the assumption that married or similarly committed couples to share a bedroom. Applicants can now increase their housing choices because the new occupancy standards grant more flexibility when applying for affordable housing opportunities by lowering housing costs for families.
HPD is also refining its outreach efforts to educate applicants with rental assistance vouchers about source-of-income discrimination to better prepare some of the lowest income applicants in their housing search.
The City’s fair housing efforts are in collaboration with the Where We Live NYC initiative, a comprehensive planning process created by the City to study, understand, and address patterns of residential segregation and how these patterns impact New Yorkers’ access to opportunity.
Mayor Bill de Blasio noted, “For too long, families without access to credit have faced barriers to the affordable housing they need. By allowing New Yorkers to submit rental history instead of credit checks, we are creating a fairer system for all New Yorkers.”
HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll said, “We will continue to challenge the practices that have perpetuated inequality and injustice for decades. These new changes, paired with the grassroots work we’re doing with the Where We Live NYC initiative, are moving the needle toward our goal to make New York the fairest big city in the country”.
HDC President Eric Enderlin stated, “These significant policy updates build upon our ongoing efforts to make New York a more equitable place to live. By addressing the challenges many low-income New Yorkers face in the rental application process, we are creating more options for those in need of an affordable home.”
By: Abby Cannon (Abby is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2020.)