Press | October 3, 2019

Winning the Housing Lottery


Winning the Housing Lottery



When Rebekah Miranda and her daughter Amber Valentin moved into a brand-new apartment last September, it was a first for both of them. Ms. Miranda, 45, had lived in the same three-bedroom in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx since she was a year old, and she had raised her four daughters there. Ms. Valentin, 18, her youngest, had lived there her entire life.


Certainly, it wasn’t love for their old place that had kept them there so long. The apartment, located in Forest Houses, a New York City Housing Authority project, was in constant disrepair, and Ms. Miranda, a 911 dispatcher, often returned from work at odd hours to find strangers hanging out in the building.


“I’d come home and there would be people in the lobby that didn’t even live there,” said Ms. Miranda, who was also unhappy about the condition of the building.


“It was just continuous repairs being done year after year — roof leaking, paint peeling. I got tired of it,” she said. “I was embarrassed to have people over with all the repairs needing to be done in the kitchen and bathroom.”


Her parents had left years earlier when they bought a condo nearby, and her siblings had moved to other neighborhoods and cities as well. But Ms. Miranda never felt she could risk going herself. In the projects, rent was tied to income, so if her hours were cut or she lost her job, she wouldn’t lose her home.


Her caution seemed prudent when FEGS, the social-service nonprofit where she’d been a program assistant for years, declared bankruptcy in 2015 and she lost her job. By then, two of her daughters had left home, but Amber and another daughter who was completing a master’s degree in social work were still living with her.


“To risk making less and not being able to make rent scared me,” Ms. Miranda said. “I didn’t want to take chances.”


A few years ago, however, a friend who’d found an affordable apartment through a housing lottery urged her to do the same. “I started applying for every lottery in the Bronx,” said Ms. Miranda, who didn’t want to work too far from the borough’s dispatch center near Pelham Bay. She was contacted about several units, but was twice denied because the overtime she worked had pushed her above the income cap.


Finally, she got a call about a two-bedroom at St. Augustine Terrace, a new 12-story building on the site of an old Catholic Church on East 167th Street. This one she qualified for, and she and Ms. Valentin, who is now a student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, moved in last fall, paying $1,066 a month. Continue reading…