NYC: Affordable Accessible Housing?

NYC Affordable Accessible Housing. Options & Rights for New Yorkers with disabilities looking for an apartment.

Last September I received a call from my landlord informing me that he planned to sell his house, where I am a tenant, and that I had 30 days to move out.

“What? Not again,” I thought. I had only been living there for 10 months. I couldn’t believe I was being pushed out of yet another place I called home.

Back in January 2014, my previous landlord sold the building that my family and I were living in. It took me almost a year to find a new apartment because I have a disability and I need a wheelchair-accessible home. When I finally found, with help from the nonprofit organization Wheeling Forward, a one-bedroom apartment in a private house, it wasn’t perfect; I had to put a ramp in my bedroom because it is a step down from the rest of the unit. And there was no room for my family, so they had to find their own place.

Still, it was home. But now, it seemed, I would have to start all over again looking for an affordable, accessible apartment.

We live in a great city, but one thing is for sure; it is very difficult to find affordable, accessible housing. Ten months have passed and I am still looking. I have contacted many real estate agencies and I have family and friends looking for me as well. I find real estate agencies very difficult to deal with. They want you to have a certain income and great credit to even show you listings. Even with two part-time jobs I can’t meet the real estate agencies’ requirements. I have also put in applications at a few apartment buildings, only to be placed on their waiting lists. I never thought finding an accessible apartment could be this hard.

I have applied through NYC Housing Connect, which is an important resource, but which has its disadvantages. It’s a housing lottery with very specific requirements. To be considered, you must meet their income and household size requirements. They prefer New York City residents and you may get a preference if you have a mobility, hearing, or vision impairment, if you currently live in the Community Board District where housing is available, or if you work for the City of New York. Even if you meet all of the requirements though, because Housing Connect is a lottery, you may or may not get called for an interview.

In addition to Housing Connect, low income New Yorkers with disabilities can apply for affordable, accessible housing on the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) website. Waits are long so this is not a near-term solution. However, it is worth applying to get on the waiting list if you plan to live in New York City for the foreseeable future.

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities has gathered together a list of New York City resources for people with disabilities facing housing problems. That list is available here.

People with disabilities do have rights

In the midst of all of this turmoil over my personal housing situation, I attended a Fair Housing Symposium that the New York City Commission on Human Rights hosted this spring. I sure got a lot of information. I learned about the rights I have as a person with a disability when I need housing accommodations and about the different type of housing programs New York City offers.

Under the City’s Human Rights Law, someone with a disability has a right to request that reasonable accommodations be made to his or her new or existing home. The City’s Human Rights Commission has a Law Enforcement Bureau, where anyone can file a complaint if they believe they have been discriminated against. As ICS COO Regina Estela recently reported, last year the Commission received more disability-related discrimination complaints than those for any other category.

If you believe you have been discriminated against in seeking housing or that your current landlord is acting in a discriminatory way because you have a disability, the first step is to call 311 or visit 311 online to file a housing discrimination complaint. The Human Rights Commission Enforcement Bureau will conduct an investigation and, if they find there is cause to believe discrimination took place, their legal team will get involved. If the facts point to discrimination they will file a lawsuit against the landlord to compel them to follow the law and, in some cases, try to recover money damages for the person who was discriminated against. Most of the lawsuits the Commission files are settled by negotiation between the Commission and the landlord.

I am still living in my home, where the landlord wants me to move; he hasn’t yet sold his house. He understands the difficulty I am having finding a new home but has been very persistent about the fact that I need to leave. Another nonprofit organization, Wheels of Progress, has been trying to help me again, contacting building owners, and asking them to rent me an apartment, as well as assisting me with my Housing Connect applications. And I have spoken with a lawyer I was referred to, who assures me that my landlord cannot throw me out without taking me to court first.

I am hoping through this ordeal that I will eventually find an accessible home that I can live in for the long term. I pray to God that, once I am resettled, I won’t ever have to again go through what I’ve experienced these last three years.

23 replies
  1. John K
    John K says:

    Dear Ms./Mrs. Hamda, thank you so very much for an extremely moving, and very timely story.
    I am still asking myself with ALL of the building going on (and abandoned buildings that ARE in good shape, and can be used for housing as well) in the five boroughs, why in the name of God is there “supposedly” NO housing available?
    Well, with all the research I’ve done thus far, I’ve come to learn that we’re being horribly lied to over and over again, very sadly it seems MAINLY to keep housing available for a ‘select group’ of folks (mainly hipsters) who the landlords and city look to in order to now pay these enormous rents (and the Governor, Mayor, Senators, etc. WIll NOT stop this and could care less), which WILL come home to roost and very SOON cripple this city.
    I have friends and family living in ‘shelters’ because the landlords see a gold mine in the hipster gentrification movement, and WILL take down and put out anyone who gets in their way (and that includes the disABLED too), in order to get “market rate, mortgage monies” and it’s working like a charm while areas lose their diversity in the process (then again who really cares about the working class and disenfranchised any more?).
    I wish you all the best Ma’am as I’m searching for housing myself along with my mentally challenged brother and a nephew with Aspergers, and while we have a voucher land lords are NOT accepting them, so we’re a large empass right now and sadly I don’t know where to look any more.
    Thanks again and God Bless you.

  2. Vivian Rivera
    Vivian Rivera says:

    Hi my name is Vivian. I’m looking for affordable housing in NYC lower Manhattan and North Bronx area…..need a 1 bd 1 ba for the disabled with plenty of amenities. Please let me know. Thanks

  3. Regina Weiss, Director of External Communications
    Regina Weiss, Director of External Communications says:

    Hi Vivian, Please contact Sanja Stegich, the disability services coordinator at the NYC Department of Housing and Development. Her number is 212.863.6486. Her email address is stegichs@hpd.nyc.gov – Good luck in your search!

  4. Bill Cox
    Bill Cox says:

    It’s a huge problem for a rental market and I can name only a few rental websites, that provide housing with a wheelchair. For those who came with such questions, I’d like to recommend to filter amenities and to choose “wheelchair” or just type in URL after slash – /wheelchair, like in example: https://rentberry.com/apartments/s/new-york-ny/wheelchair
    These kind of apartments are sensitively more expensive, but as a landlord, who provide housing for disabled, I would say that unfortunately the ways these people can find appropriate apartments are limited :( And after years of renting, I’ve understood that somehow these people don’t get enough attention from society.

  5. Fatima Marcelle
    Fatima Marcelle says:

    Who can I contact at the Mayor’s office for people with disabilities to discuss my housing for the disabled issues. Currently have a section 8 voucher disable, and live with adult disabled son/daughter and a grandson. Only offered a 2 bedroom. Landlords don’t want to rent to 4 people in a 2 bedroom voucher, hard enough to find a section 8 one much less for landlord to accept 3 adults and 1 pre teen. Tried the low income housing lottery no one calling back and I thought they allotted some of these apartments for the disabled. Please who can I go to in person and sit face to face to discuss a plan for me to get results in seeking an apartment for our disabilities. Thank you for a reply asap.

  6. María Constanza Sánchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate
    María Constanza Sánchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate says:

    I am so sorry you are having such difficulties. Here’s what I suggest. First, call and/or email Sanja Stegich, who is the disability service facilitator at the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. She knows the most about the housing lottery works for people with disabilities. Her contact information is: 212.863.6486 and stegichs@hpd.nyc.gov. Second, if you believe you may be facing housing discrimination based on disability or section 8 status, call the New York City Human Rights Commission and ask to make a complaint. You can also visit them in person – they have an office in each borough. That number is 718.722.3131.

    You can also call Antony Gemmell, from New York Lawyers For The Public Interest (NYLPI), at 212.244.4664. NYLPI has a program, The Disability Justice Program, that works to advance civil rights and ensure equality of opportunity, self-determination, and independence for people with disabilities. Their advocacy spans many areas, including housing, transportation, education, community integration, and equal access to programs and services in New York City. Check out their website is https://www.nylpi.org/

    Good luck to you!

  7. Gabriel Caba
    Gabriel Caba says:

    Well all these web, is not helping my my brother is waiting for 9 yrs for nycha, meanwhile he is dragging himself to the floor to get around, it’s 40 steps to go up and down, no elevator in the building,it’s a I humanity way

  8. Evelyn Rivera
    Evelyn Rivera says:

    Hello my name is ms..rivera..i have section 8 i been living in my appt 25 year’s i have not gotten repair since i move here ..i can not see daylight and is very cold they dont give heat unless is 5 :300 am to 6:ooam only im tired living with cold and funny smell in my appart
    .i got rob 5 times in diffrent years..my lobby is always full of young men doing drugs..my widows are full of ice in the inside of my appt…please i have a lot of violation..theres no super i have no light in my bedroom my bathtub is clog for more than 6 month ..i have cancer..and would like to live in a secure building..that i feel safe please if only i can get in to one of the new building their doing in the area…im 49 alone no family or friends since 2003..that i lost my mom and brother..lonely female in need of healththy eviroment i live in first floor tired of smelling drugs in my appt..the entrance door is broken…because of the substace..please help.me..im a very good tenant..i going for durgery for a coloptosmy soon and would like sa tranfer my life is in danger here rape ect that has happen to me..please please tell.me how to get a transfer as soon as possible..thank you..bronx ny
    .

  9. Regina Weiss, Director of External Communications
    Regina Weiss, Director of External Communications says:

    Evelyn, I am so sorry for your troubles. We do not provide housing services, unfortunately. However, I believe that you may be able to get free legal assistance. Please reach out to them. Good luck to you! Here is the contact information from the Legal Aid Society website: “If you are in need of legal assistance and live in New York City, please call 212-577-3300 to receive information in English and Spanish how to access our services.”

  10. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Hi I have a mental health disability. Therefore I receive SSI income. I am very distressed with not being able to obtain housing. My income is only $675 per month. That is not a good source of income to obtain housing in New York City. I really need help!. Please someone guide me in the right direction. Thanks!

  11. Maria Constanza Sanchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate
    Maria Constanza Sanchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate says:

    Hi Jessica,
    We are so sorry for the difficult time you are having. Please contact Barrier Free Living.
    Please call them at 212-677 6668 or if you prefer you can email them at info@bflnyc.org They may be able to help you.

  12. Yvette Abreu-Torres
    Yvette Abreu-Torres says:

    Hello my name is Yvette l have just moved from florida to pennsylvania but l am trying to find away to get back to ny for my son has has autisim and suffer from seizures and my husband is a vietnom veteran he is 73 l am looking to try and find an affordable housing for us there is one building that l feel is convenient it is on 29 street 1st avenue in manhattan how can l get applications for my son and husband in midtown manhattan or just manhattan in general please help us thank you

  13. Yvette Abreu-Torres
    Yvette Abreu-Torres says:

    Please help us get information for my son who has autism and suffers from seizures and my husband who is a veteran not service connected we are looking for a handicap private affordable apartment in new york manhattan is preferable to us please help us thank you l dont know where to begin

  14. kudshia
    kudshia says:

    my father have physical disability in his leg. and we r 4 member in my family. me and my sister is student. so our income is too low. now adays we cant affort our house rent. now we live in a basement in rent. we need really help.i applied for nyc housing authority. they didnt call me. so now what should i do… can anything help us ..? please suggest me.. thank you

  15. Maria Constanza Sanchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate
    Maria Constanza Sanchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate says:

    We are so sorry for your troubles and the difficulties you face. Please contact Barrier Free Living; they may be able to help you. That number is 212.677.6668. Good luck to you and your family.

  16. Victoria Hamilton
    Victoria Hamilton says:

    Hi,I need help finding a 2 bedroom handicapped accessible apt I’ve recently received a double transplant I’m no longer able to work after 34 years of nursing I’m now receiving social security and temporarily staying with my sister with my kids please help me need to be in bklyn close to Dr’s

  17. Maria Constanza Sanchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate
    Maria Constanza Sanchez Chiappe, Digital & Visual Communications Associate says:

    Please contact the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. They have many resources to assist you. Their phone number is (212) 788-2830. Here is their website address for more information. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/mopd/index.page Good luck to you!

  18. Renee Overton
    Renee Overton says:

    I Would Like to Know When I Can Find Application For One Disabilty For One Bedroom I Receive SIS $763:0 0 Dollar Every Month I Just Turn 58 YEAR Old Would Appreciate if Somebody Can Help Me God Bless

  19. yalanda beauford
    yalanda beauford says:

    Hello I’m reaching out for a friend she is blind and I went to visit her yesterday and the person she’s staying with have her living horribly she pays rent from her disability income she is sleeping on the floor in the living room where’s there’s mice the lady will not even allow her to get an air bed she said she will rather stay there then in the shelter because of happened to as a child there I’m am so heartbroken seeing her live this way I got up this morning call my landlord and him is there any way to add to my he said no now I’m even more hurt because I can’t help her so I’m just trying to do everything to I possibly could to help her she is need of help she’s in Brooklyn New York I leave her name and email

  20. Christofer Pierson, Director of Member Communications
    Christofer Pierson, Director of Member Communications says:

    Hi Yalanda,

    Here are some contacts that may be able to help you and your friend. (She has rights!)

    First of all, you can try calling 311, the city’s information line. They can put you in touch with an appropriate city agency. Or you can contact the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/mopd/index.page). In Brooklyn, try contacting Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (https://www.bcid.org/. And finally, you can try New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (https://www.nylpi.org/).

    I hope this helps!

    Good luck,
    Christofer Pierson
    Director of Member Communications

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