In Brief

NYC Housing Realities: 53,000 Artists Apply for 89 Affordable Apartments

by Claire Voon on August 4, 2014

El Barrio’s Artspace PS109 at 99th St. (screenshot via Google Maps)

El Barrio’s Artspace PS109 at E 99th St (screenshot via Google Maps)

Last May, developers for subsidized artist housing in East Harlem began accepting tenant applications for the building’s 89 units. By the July 14 deadline, over 53,000 artists had responded, DNAinfo reported. 51,313 applications were filed online and over 2,000 on paper, bringing the number of hopeful residents to about 600 times the amount of space available.

The developers, who are transforming a former public school into the apartments and community arts facility known as El Barrio’s Artspace PS 109, will determine the future residents through a lottery later this year. Qualifying tenants not only have to be artists but must also meet specific income and household size requirements — individuals looking to occupy one of the 18 $494/month studios, for example, must demonstrate an annual income of up to $23,520. The developers also aim to fill 50% of the units with East Harlem residents — a goal Matthew S. Washington, chair of the local Community Board 11, previously told Hyperallergic he is “confident” in fulfilling, “but there is no guarantee.” The percentage of prospective tenants who are East Harlem artists has not been stated.

While the number of applications received may seem staggering, housing officials described the response as “generally on par with the number of applications we receive for most of our NYC Housing Connect lotteries” since the online portal to search for affordable housing search launched in 2012, according to DNAinfo. That consistency emphasizes the city’s high-rent crisis and shortage of affordable housing — perhaps suggesting how much its skyline may need to change in the next few decades.

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  • Nic

    I don’t understand. There are 53,000 “artists” (heavy on the quotes) somehow managing to survive in manhattan on an income of $23,520 or less???!!! Where do these people live now on that kind of money, under a starbucks awning? And what happens if they get a new job after two months of moving in that pays higher than that income limit, do they get evicted…? Are they supposed to commit to a lifetime of low-paying jobs just to qualify to keep their apartment? I need some clarification!!

    • Vantrice L

      Low earnings and being an artist are correlated because once an artist can afford basic necessities (e.g., a room, food, studio space, supplies, etc.) through their ‘day job’ earnings, they will then spend time on their art rather than advancing responsibilities for higher pay.

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