Every year, HPD creates and preserves thousands of affordable apartments for New Yorkers across the five boroughs. These apartments are home to a range of households, from those earning extremely low incomes to middle income families. While we track our progress by the units we finance, we measure our success by the people we serve – the New Yorkers whose lives are transformed by the opportunity to find and secure an affordable home.
The residents living in City-financed affordable housing come from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, but they all shared in common a need for affordable housing. Whether they applied through a lottery on Housing Connect or were referred by a shelter or social worker, now these residents not only now have a home they can afford; they have a foundation upon which to build a better future. At HPD, we are not just building homes, we are changing lives.
Each person’s story is unique. ‘Affordable for Me’ captures the hope, the relief, and the security residents feel when they are finally able to move into housing that is affordable – for them.
Kelly had been street homeless before he got the call that he finally had an affordable place to call home. A life-long New Yorker, Kelly is excited to have a space where he can cook, dream, and lay plans for the future. Read more.
"I remember getting the phone call, ‘What are you doing right now…after that, you might want to come home.’ I just started crying and thanking God immediately.” Finding an apartment that he could afford has had a transformative effect on Kelly’s life. “It allowed me to be here. I don’t make the most, but I can live like the average person. I moved in December 1st of last year, and am still embracing the moment. Sometimes I wake up like…this is mine, this is mine.”
Kelly says his favorite part of his apartment is the window. “I love staring out the window. At night, you can see the stars, so I just kick back and dream.”
“I have always said, when I get my own place, I am going to learn how to cook. Now that I have my own stove, I am cooking up a storm. That’s one of my favorite parts. Just having a space where I can be creative and express myself and plan… There’s times where you don’t know where the next thing is coming, so now that I have a place to get my thoughts together, I feel like it can be more authentic and just real.”
Now that Kelly has a place to call home, he wants to focus on the next step of his life: education and achieving his dreams. “I just don’t want to be limited,” Kelly said, sitting in his newly furnished apartment. “And I felt like not having a place was limiting me, holding me back. Now that I have this, there are no excuses. My next step now that I have an apartment is to get back into school and finish up my college degree and continue to work, and be the best that I can be.”
David, an active member of the National Guard, has roots in New York and his family has served in the military for generations. His grandfather immigrated to America and settled his family in Astoria, where David’s parents continued to reside until they were priced out of the neighborhood and forced to relocate to Upstate New York. David and his wife feared they would have to move out of the city as well, until their application for an affordable apartment was accepted through Housing Connect. Read more.
David works full time as a non-profit attorney specializing in veteran’s issues. He gives one weekend a month and two weeks per year to his National Guard duties. He knew, with his non-profit salary and the increasingly high rent of the city, something had to give.
“We were starting to come to the realization that without some sort of program we wouldn’t have long term prospects,” David explains. “It was either move out, or seek out affordable housing opportunities.”
David and his wife were living in a cramped studio apartment before they received word that their affordable housing application had been selected. “We were in a studio, my wife and I. There couldn’t have been more than 150 square feet of livable space, which was tough. We didn’t have the capacity to cook because of how small the space was. It went from our bed, to a little love seat to our bookcase to our refrigerator, which we pushed up against the stove so we could have more livable space.”
But in the summer of 2015, his application to an affordable apartment lottery through Housing Connect was selected. This is what allowed David and his wife to stay in the city.
“Now I have a reasonable expectation to raise a family here and stay here for generations to come. My grandfather came here from out of the country; he settled his family in Astoria, which is just a couple neighborhoods over. My father came back to Astoria after being in the military to raise a family,” David says. “I think this program is going to keep us grounded. It’s going to keep us in the community. And we can have long lasting roots here.”
A lifelong New Yorker, Russell had been living in and out of shelters for three years before he was connected to affordable housing through his case worker. Determined to leave behind a delinquent past, Russell finally has stable housing that allows him to have a fresh start and build a better life. Read more.
Russell isn’t afraid of talking about his troublesome past; he feels that his history has helped him learn from mistakes. “I came up around a negative environment. I came up around drug dealers, hustlers -- those were my role models at first,” Russell says. “I took to gangs, ran the streets. I had to learn everything the hard way. It got me incarcerated.”
After his release, Russell at first went back to what he knew; the streets. “I continued that life until I started losing people that were really close to me,” Russell explains. “Actually, I lost my brother. I had to wake up because I didn’t want that to be me. I don’t want to just be known as that, my past. That’s when I took myself to the shelter.”
A case worker informed Russell about an opportunity to move out of the shelters and into something more permanent. “I went to an interview. I guess it went well since I ended up here. I was ecstatic to be honest. Once I saw the apartments, I fell in love,” Russell says. “Just being here, it’s great. I can’t really describe it. I am not over that feeling yet. Everyday isn’t a great day, but every day I can close my door at night, that’s always a good feeling.”
Russell’s favorite part of his new apartment is definitely his kitchen. “Being in the shelter, we didn’t really have anywhere to cook,” Russell says. “And I like to cook. Now I have a space where I can just chef it up. I can make stuff the way I like it.”
In his spare time, Russell writes poetry and music lyrics. He hopes to one day have more than he has now, but he feels like he has a starting point from which to build his life. “Eventually, I’ll be able to get those things, but you got to have a roof. That should be everyone’s biggest goal, to be independent. It’s a great feeling to finally be able to be on your own,” Russell says. “Places like this give people like me a chance to get it together.”
Kate is a small business owner who has lived in Greenpoint for most of her life. She is delighted to have the opportunity to live in the same community where she established her business, which serves as a resource for parents in the neighborhood. “I’ve been here forever, and I know everyone,” Kate explains. “Nine years ago, I had my son, and it changed everything. I had an apartment that I had been living in since I was 23 years old. I never expected to be there this long. I just have one son, and I want him to have the very best.” Read more.
A lifelong New Yorker, Kate realized that unless she was able to find a bigger affordable apartment to live in with her growing son, she would have to leave New York. She started fervently applying to the City’s affordable housing through Housing Connect. Though she applied to many opportunities outside of Greenpoint, Kate hoped to stay in the community she had lived in and nurtured for decades. “Obviously I wanted to stay here because my store is here. If it took me two hours to get to work in the morning, that would be a problem.”
Luckily, Kate’s hope to stay in Greenpoint became a reality; her application was selected. Because she met the community board preference and the income requirement, Kate was able to move on through the interview process and secure her apartment. “Because I am a Greenpoint resident, it was easier for me to get housing in Greenpoint,” Kate says. “I feel very very lucky.”
Kate loves that her son is able to play with other children in the building, and that he has grown to be attached to their new home. When Kate and her son recently visited family in Arizona, he missed their apartment and his room. “That has never happened before,” Kate says.
Now, Kate makes sure to tell anyone who comes by the store to look into Housing Connect. “I tell everyone about it. I tell anyone who will listen, that I won the lottery. I have never won anything in my life. I just think everyone should be trying.”
Iyanna is a cheerful East New Yorker, born and raised a few blocks from the affordable apartment where she now lives. “This whole area from my apartment to down the block is where I know. My mother’s first beauty parlor was across the street. My grandmother lives four blocks down, my aunt lives on the same block. My uncle lives two blocks away from me. So this is what I know.” Before applying for apartments through Housing Connect, Iyanna was living with her mother, striving to leave the nest and make her way on her own as a young adult. Read more.
Iyanna applied to affordable housing on advice from her educational advisor. She doubted she would hear back, but she applied anyway. “A thousand people applied, and I know I am not going to get this,” Iyanna remembers thinking. “But something said, Iyanna check your email. And they picked me!” She had found out just in time, as this was the last notice for her interview, and her interview was that same day.
Iyanna was elated. After a few interviews, she was able to get the keys to her own place. “Just knowing that I have a key to turn the door, and once I open it, it’s mine. It’s my place. Just the key, it’s the bigger picture for me. It’s just a great feeling to feel like this is my home.”
Iyanna works for the United States Post Office as a mail carrier in Red Hook. She hopes to return to college to finish her undergraduate degree and continue building her life. Affordable housing is helping to make that happen. “The housing, it helps. My rent is not through the roof. I can afford it. I can work, save. You’re just happy that you got this opportunity.”
David had been living in the back yard of a building for about three years when he was approached by a street homeless outreach program. The program ultimately connected David to affordable housing. Since then, David feels his life completely changed. “Ever since I have been here, everything has changed. The way I think, the way I live,” David explains. “When I was living in the yard, I was always worried about snow, rain…sometimes I would wake up, and my blankets would be covered in snow. I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff anymore.” Read more.
Every time I wake up in the morning, I look around like, wow, look at this place. It feels really great.” For the first time in a long time, David feels that he has the help that he needs to improve his health and get his life on track. “Everything is right here in the building – a computer room, laundry. I am on anti-depressants, and have asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure. The people here, they help me out. They have different groups – on nutrition and health. This was a big step for me, it changed my life.”
Because of his health problems, David can’t work like he used to, which is why affordable housing is so critical. Having lost friends out on the streets due to homelessness, David feels truly fortunate to finally have a place of his own. “Once I went inside the apartment, I couldn’t stop smiling,” David says. “I walked around and started crying. I lived in an aluminum shack and nobody was helping me. If I had still been out there, I think I would have died. I came here and kissed the ground for real. You don’t know what you have until you lose it. I am really excited that I have a place. I thank God for having it.”
Elaine was born in South Carolina and has lived in New York City for most of her life. But after being diagnosed with health problems and exhausting many other options, Elaine ended up in the homeless shelter system. The shelter’s social service workers connected Elaine with opportunities for affordable housing of her own. Read more.
Elaine was elated when she was told about the opportunity to live in an affordable apartment in Park Slope. “I was just so happy. I didn’t tell anyone until it was for sure. It’s going to be 3 years in June since I have been here."
Elaine appreciates the privacy of having her own space, having come from a shelter, and the stability it brings to her life. “With housing, it’s a less of a stress on my mind where I have to worry every day, am I going to have my bed, like when I was in the shelter. You don’t have to worry about moving. I can stay here as long as I want, as long as I pay my rent. With the housing, it’s just peaceful. I can cook, I can keep it clean. And I love the area.”
Ten years ago, Albert was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. He applied for affordable housing after being encouraged by a close friend, but never thought he would get an interview. Now, he lives in East New York, not too far from where he grew up, with an affordable apartment of his very own. “Heart disease is a terrible illness, but it makes it all the more easier when you can have a home,” Albert explains. “Not only a home you can live in, but a home that you can afford.” Read more.
Albert felt an overwhelming sense of relief and comfort when he found out that his application for affordable housing had been selected. “I cried,” Albert admitted. “I cried because living on disability, living in sometimes substandard housing, sometimes rooming, sometimes sleeping on the floor; you are just looking for a home.”
A native of East New York, Albert is surprised and elated to see new development happening in the area. “I never thought I would see the day that buildings would go up in East New York that closely resembled beautiful buildings on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan that I would only dream of living in when I was a little kid visiting Central Park,” Albert says. “I too now have an opportunity to live in a building that has beautiful lighting, great construction, and wonderful amenities.”
With increased medical bills and a decreased ability to work, Albert appreciates the stability and peace of mind affordable housing has allowed him. “Medicines are expensive; medical care is expensive. To wake up in the morning and know that I can afford my rent, my bills, and my health care, it’s important to me and it’s quite a blessing.”
Originally hailing from Jamaica, Dorothy has lived in Brooklyn since the 1970s. As a senior in the community, she hoped to live in a new building that would provide the amenities and accessibility she required. She noticed new buildings in her neighborhood, and after being urged by a friend, she applied for affordable housing. Her application was selected for an interview, but Dorothy, thinking it was unlikely that she’d get an apartment, ignored the first few calls. Read more.
“They said to me that it’s not guaranteed that you will get it,” Ms. Dorothy says. “So I ignored it, because I thought if it’s not guaranteed, what’s the point.” After encouragement from her friend, she decided to give it another try, and responded to the messages left about her interview. “I believe in prayer, so I said God, I am going to claim this building; this is going to be my building.” She ended up being one of the first people to move into the new affordable housing development.
Dorothy enjoys the building because it is designed for seniors, unlike her last building. In her free time, Dorothy enjoys gardening in the building’s terrace. Her own apartment is filled with plants she nurtured. “In the summer, we go in the backyard and we help with the gardening,” Dorothy explains. “We grow organic produce. I get involved a lot. I was the manager of the garden last year.”
Flaviana, a senior now living in Park Slope, has had an exciting life. She served in the Phillipine National Red Cross, and transitioned to teaching arts to children in Nigeria. Now Flaviana has a place to age in dignity. Read more.
"I am a social worker. I graduated with my bachelors, and a just few months after I graduated, I applied for the Philippine National Red Cross in the Philippines,” Flaviana explains. “My husband was able to get a job outside of the Philippines, in Africa.” For the next few decades, Flaviana and her family lived in Nigeria, where Flaviana worked as an arts education teacher. “I love to tell that story because we started from scratch,” Flaviana says.
Now Flaviana has a home where she can reflect and enjoy the simple things. She appreciates the accessibility of the buildingto resources, and it’s close proximity to transportation, and a supermarket, and other resources. She also enjoys the activities offered in the building. Flaviana can now engage in the creative hobbies she enjoyed in the past. “Here in this place, once every day they have arts and crafts, they have cooking, they have jewelry club,” Flaviana says. “I have attended all those things.”
Sergio, a City software engineer, was finding it harder and harder to find an apartment that could house him and his growing family. “Our neighborhood was getting more expensive. We probably should have looked for a two bedroom way before our daughter was born. All of our friends were telling us, ‘oh it’s a little crazy. Things are very expensive.’” Read more.
Working for the City, Sergio had heard of Housing Connect but could never seem to find apartments he and his wife qualified for. Finally, an opportunity presented itself in Greenpoint. After a few meetings and plenty of paperwork, Sergio explains, “They told us ‘okay, bring your deposit and set a date for your move.’ And we were like, ‘oh my gosh, it’s happening.’”
Now that they have moved and their young toddler is a little older, Sergio is glad to have an apartment that provides more space for him and his family. “It’s definitely better for us to have our own spaces. And the building itself, there are places for the kids to run around. It’s nice. We are happy about the decision to apply.”
Sergio feels a sense of security and relief that the quality of his apartment will be maintained. “You don’t have to worry about, will the superintendent fix the bathtub if it clogs, or will I have heating in the winter, or will my lease be renewed? This program helps people who don’t have the resources or the network to have access to affordable housing.”