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NYC housing lottery website gets a big upgrade

The improvements bring the housing lottery into the 21st century: Applicants can use a smartphone to apply and to upload documents online.

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New York City’s housing lottery website, long considered out of date and glitchy, is getting a new system to speed up the application process and fix its many technical problems.

The city will unveil today the updated site, NYC Housing Connect, and the first apartments will appear in early July, according to The New York Times. The improvements, which are aimed at getting New Yorkers into below-market apartments faster, comes just as the pandemic has unleashed an economic crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

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The overhaul introduces the ability for applicants to use a smartphone to apply and to upload documents online. The old system required parts of the application process to be done in person and rely on paper documents.

About 2,500 apartments will be available on the site in the coming months, according to the article, aimed at households with incomes below or slightly above the median income, which for a family of four in NYC is $113,700. Over the past year, more than 8,700 units were available through the online lottery system, the most in any fiscal year, the city said.

Another major fix will make the system more transparent: After applicants create a profile with information about household size and income, which determines eligibility, applicants will be shown apartments for which they may qualify. This is an improvement over the past system, in which users applied to every building on the site, without knowing whether they qualified.

The site also been upgraded to improve stability and prevent crashing.

Another fix will bring vacated lottery apartments back into the system, potentially bringing thousands of units every month. In the past, those apartments went on individual building lists, prompting allegations of unfairness or even bribery, The Times said.