More Than 88,000 People Apply for 55 Affordable Apartments in “Poor Door” Building

We’ve written before about the Upper West Side apartment building that came with both expensive and affordable apartments, as long as the low-income residents are willing to enter through a “poor door” at the back of the building.

How many people would be willing to do that, you might ask?

Well, the building just closed applications for its 55 low-rent units, and we have our answer: over 88,000 people.

88,000 people are willing — probably more than willing — to enter this building through what the Daily Mail called “a back alley” so they won’t inadvertently cross paths with the wealthier tenants. The building is fairly insistent that its two income demographics keep completely separate, by the way; as the New York Times reported, the poor door tenants have separate laundry facilities and do not have access to “the pool, the gym, the bowling alley and the private theater.”

Well, who needs a private theater when you’ve got Netflix and affordable housing, right? The rent is almost as affordable as the $875 two-bedroom in Washington, DC that we featured earlier this week. From the NYT:

The units at Extell’s building are eligible to households with incomes of $30,240 to $50,340, with rents listed at $1,082 for a two-bedroom, $895 for a one-bedroom and $833 for a studio in a prime location by the Hudson River.

I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that this building appears to consider $50K “low income.” $50K is median income! It’s middle class, in theory! The $30,240 minimum income means they aren’t even accepting applications from people living below the poverty line! It’s… never mind, I want a $1,082 two-bedroom as much as the next person, let’s let the NYT tell us how we might get selected for this opportunity:

Shelia Martin, chief operating officer of the NYC Housing Partnership, said the screening of applicants for 470 West 62nd Street will begin next month. After they are randomly ranked, the top several thousand applications are reviewed, and about 2,000 interviews conducted, to find the 55 households that meet income and size requirements. Preferences are given to those who live in the same community district as the new building, people with disabilities and municipal employees.

That back alley had better be ADA-compliant. I do appreciate that they’re giving preference to people with disabilities, and I’m very curious about how this “randomly ranked” process works. (Is a computer doing the random ranking, or are people literally shuffling paper applications?)

But the key takeaway here seems to be that each potential applicant has an approximate 0.06 percent chance of getting one of these affordable apartments, before factors like disabilities and municipal employment are taken into account. Many people won’t even have their applications considered.

More importantly, a person with a $50K income and an $833 studio will be paying 20 percent of their pre-tax income on rent. If a household with a combined $50K income applies for the $1,082 two-bedroom, they’ll be putting 26 percent of their pre-tax income towards rent. If a person with only $30,240 in income applies for the $833 studio, that person will be paying 33 of their pre-tax income on rent. These affordable apartments are just barely affordable.

Despite this, despite the poor door, and despite everything else, over 88,000 people are hoping to live in this building. I wish them all luck.

Photo credit: Sakeeb Sabakka

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