Ask an Expert

I lost my job and got severance. Will this affect my NYC housing lottery application?

By Alanna Schubach  | December 1, 2020 - 9:30AM

A new development with housing lottery apartments in Vinegar Hill. 

NYC Housing Connect

I’ve been chosen to proceed with an application for the NYC housing lottery and submitted all my documentation. I’ve gone to see the apartment and I am awaiting HPD approval. This week I accepted a severance package from my employer—they will pay me a lump sum of almost a year's pay. How will this affect my application? Could I be turned down because I'm now unemployed?

Unfortunately, this change in your employment may affect your chances at getting the apartment, our experts say. 

Buildings that participate in the city's housing lottery receive tax breaks in exchange for making a portion of their apartments affordable to low- and middle-income renters, who can apply for these apartments through the city's Housing Connect website

"The owners of these buildings make an arrangement with the federal government to receive low income housing tax credits, and the government designates a local agency that makes sure the building owners are complying with the rules," explains Ron Languedoc, a partner with Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph (a Brick sponsor.) 

For New Yorkers, eligibility for these apartments is determined by Housing Preservation and Development and based on strict income requirements and the size of the household. The application and approval process can take quite a while, so it's not unusual for an applicant's job situation and income to change while they're being considered. 

"The critical issue is your annual income at the time of signing the lease. It's not the income at the time you put your name into the lottery, or the time you get contacted if your number came up, or the time you submit all your documents," Languedoc says. 

HPD uses this, along with a letter from the applicant's employer stating what their income is expected to be for the coming year, to make their deterimination. Since you recently lost your job—and received a lump-sum severance—this could render you ineligible for the housing lottery apartment. 

It's not a good idea to conceal these changes to your income from HPD. 

"It's very possible you will not be able to go ahead with the application," Languedoc says. "You may have already submitted a letter from your employer before the severance, but if you were to go ahead with the application based on that, it would be false information and grounds for eviction." 

If there are other factors at play here—such as other members of your household whose income is also being considered, or if you are planning to go on social security or receive retirement income—that could also impact your eligibility. Your best bet is to reach to HPD and let them know about the changes to your finances. 

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Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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