New York City is notoriously expensive for renters, despite laws that cap rent rates. Its residents have long struggled to afford exorbitant rent prices. In response, officials created an affordable housing lottery, but it has its own issues. Residents can remain on the lottery for years before given a chance to prove that they qualify for one of the 40,000 affordable apartments in the city. The city receives millions of applications each year, leading to lengthy wait times. However, officials have revealed a new website and application process that may make applying less arduous for hopeful residents. 

A significant improvement to the application system includes the ability not only to apply online but to do so directly from a smartphone. Previously, applications had to start the process in person, which lengthened the process and could increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. Now, they can upload all of their documents directly from their phone. The system will also determine whether applicants qualify for the program based on their income and family size. This helps to narrow down which apartments are appropriate, streamlining the process. Before, applicants applied for every apartment, and qualification as only determined when a unit became available. Rejections will also be made more explicit by the new system, solving a prior problem.

The first apartments will be available starting in July, and a total of 2,500 apartments will be available in the coming months. Additionally, New York City’s mayor Bill Deblasio promises that at last 300,000 affordable homes will become available by 2026, either by procuring existing homes or building new ones. Officials say they’re on track to have 200,000 units by 2022. Since 2014, 164,000 apartments have been added to the system. The new system also re-adds apartments that have been vacated instead of landlords keeping separate waitlists.

Still, critics are quick to point out that more affordable housing units are necessary. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City was facing a looming housing crisis. The broader issue — a lack of affordable housing — must be addressed to mitigate New York City’s housing crisis.