Apartment Hunting

Housing Types

To find the right apartment, you need to understand the different types of housing in New York City and focus your search on the right fit for your household.  Most rental apartments in New York City are part of three broad categories of housing.  Learn more about each of these categories, and some of the subsets of these categories by using the links below.

Private Market (Unregulated)

Roughly 850,000 of New York City’s two million plus rental units are considered to be “market rate” or available on the private market without any regulation as to how much rent can be charged or whether a lease is offered.

Market rate housing is easier to find than rent-regulated apartments in New York City. However, tenants of market rate housing have less legal protections regarding the right to a lease renewal and evictions. Owners of market rate housing are not required to provide tenants with leases and are allowed to raise rents to whatever rate they feel the market can bear. Market rate housing also tends to be more expensive, especially in neighborhoods with high demand. Like rent-regulated housing, market-rate housing can be found city-wide, and is most prevalent in low-density areas where buildings typically have less than six units.

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Private Market (Regulated) 

About one million of New York City’s two million plus rental units are considered to be rent stabilized (with an additional 27,000 rent controlled).  Rent-Regulated Housing includes both “rent controlled” and “rent-stabilized” apartments. Besides the benefit of rent increases that are set by a government agency, tenants in rent regulated housing also have greater legal protections than those living in market rate housing.  These units are available on the private market (i.e. you get a rent stabilized apartment the way you get any other and there are no income limits), but rent increases and lease renewals are regulated by both New York State and New York City.

For an apartment to be under rent control, the tenant (or the tenant’s family if the apartment has been passed down to a qualified family member) must have been living in that apartment continuously since before July 1, 1971. When a rent-controlled apartment becomes vacant, it either becomes rent stabilized, or, if it is in a building with fewer than six units, it is generally removed from regulation.

As a rule of thumb, rent stabilized apartments are in buildings built before 1974, have six or more apartments, and the new rent is below $2,733.75 (as of January 1, 2018) per month. Apartments can also become rent stabilized if a developer utilizes the J-51 or 421-a tax incentive programs. View a list of buildings in New York City with rent-stabilized apartments. As of 2014, rent stabilized apartments comprise approximately 60% of occupied rental apartments in the Bronx, 45% in Brooklyn, 50% in Manhattan, 43% in Queens, and 19% on Staten Island. See HCR Fact Sheet #1 for further explanation of the difference between rent stabilization and rent control.

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Almost 300,000 of New York City’s two million plus rental units are considered to subsidized, generally by a government entity.  Rents in these apartments may be tied to income and may include other qualifying conditions, such as age or disability. While many programs subsidize housing, below are the most common types.  While in some programs, participants pay a portion of their income towards rent, in other programs participants pay a fixed rent, but participation is limited to those within certain income guidelines.

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Section 8

In general, Section 8 refers to the federal housing allowance program that provides rent subsidies in the form of vouchers and certificates for low-income households. Established in 1974 as part of the Housing and Community Development Act, at the heart of the program is a housing allowance is to provide a low-income household (usually-based on a percentage of income) to rent a housing unit of better quality than they could unassisted. The New Construction, Substantial Rehabilitation and Moderate Rehabilitation Section 8 subprograms (in which subsidies were made to developers to encourage the building of affordable housing) in the 1974 Act have been phased out.

In New York City, the program is administered primarily by the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

NYCHA handles the bulk of vouchers and certificates in NYC, and according to NYCHA approximately 85,000 families use vouchers and certificates in private apartments. Section 8 waitlists are generally closed, but call 311 to see if they have reopened.  For tenants currently receiving Section 8 through NYCHA, visit NYCHA's website for more information on the program.

Some tenants living in buildings rehabilitated through HPD programs may receive Federal Section 8 subsidies administered by HPD. Tenants who are now receiving Section 8 benefits through HPD, or building owners with tenants receiving such benefits through HPD, can call (917) 286-4300 for assistance. You can also visit the HPD Section 8 web page.

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Created in 1955, the Mitchell-Lama program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families. As of 2017, there were approximately 92 City-sponsored, moderate- and middle-income rental and limited-equity cooperative developments in New York City, which contain approximately 46,000 units. New York State also supervises Mitchell-Lama buildings, with an oversight of approximately 55 buildings and 53,000 units as of 2015.

To apply for a Mitchell-Lama apartment you must get on the waiting list of the individual development. Note there are occupancy level and income requirements for all Mitchell-Lama Developments. There is no master waiting list.

Below is a link to the City Mitchell-Lama developments sponsored by the NYC Housing and Preservation Development. It includes an address list of all Mitchell-Lama developments, their management companies, and a phone contact at the management company. To get on the waiting list, call the managing agent and ask for an application. Note that many of the developments have very long waiting lists and it may take many years before you are offered an apartment. Others have closed waiting lists because of heavy demand. These developments periodically reopen their waiting lists by advertising the opening by newspaper and conducting an HPD supervised lottery. For more information regarding CITY Mitchell-Lama co-ops and rentals, contact HPD’s Mitchell Lama Division via the City’s Citizen Service Center by dialing 311. You can also visit HPD’s list of Mitchell Lama buildings (including contact information for individual buildings) and HPD’s list of current housing lotteries.

The NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) also supervises Mitchell-Lama buildings in New York City. For a list of these Mitchell-Lama buildings and other related information, call HCR at (212) 480-7343, follow this link to HCR’s web page on Mitchell-Lama or write to:

25 Beaver Street 
New York, NY 10004

HCR also has an FAQ on their website about the State Mitchell-Lama program.

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Public Housing

In general, public housing refers housing units constructed and managed by government for low-income households. The first comprehensive federal public housing program was enacted by Congress in 1937, in which local housing authorities were created to develop and administer the program. 

In New York City, public housing developments are managed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), most of which are funded in large part by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Authority currently manages and maintains 346 public housing developments with 181,000 units housing nearly 535,000 residents including an estimated 105,000 persons living doubled up. The Authority manages new construction and rehabilitation of public housing buildings and units.

Homeless and domestic violence victims are a high priority group. Social services are available in a number of the developments.

For information on eligibility for public housing, and how to apply, visit NYCHA’s website.

Those currently living in public housing who wish to file a complaint can visit NYCHA's Residents webpage.

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Affordable Housing 

A variety of subsidized/affordable housing programs exist in New York City. Most affordable housing programs can be applied for through the City’s Housing Connect website.

The New York City Housing Development Corporation also advertises affordable housing opportunities on the NYCHDC website.

New York State also maintains a database of affordable housing on their website as well as a list of community-based housing organizations, which may be able to assist those with special housing needs.

The Furman Center at NYU compiles a list on their website of various programs within NYC that sponsor affordable housing.

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