When Cabrini Apartments opened its doors in 2005, more than 700 applications were on file for the 70 one-bedroom federally subsidized apartments on 19th Street in Manhattan. In late 2017, twelve years later, that file was at long last depleted. Over the years every applicant had either been offered a vacant apartment and moved in, or had otherwise gone off the waiting list for a variety of reasons determined through an annual contact with each of them.
Cabrini Housing Development Fund Corporation Inc., familiarly known as Cabrini Apartments, is one of many low income housing projects funded through the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) throughout the United States. Strict rules apply to every aspect of the operation of the apartments, the annual budget, as well as the tenants who are accepted to reside in an apartment: age – over 62, income – less than $33,400 for an individual and $38,200 for a couple annually. For those who qualify, only one third of their income is assessed for rent.
When the waiting list was near depletion, HUD approved a marketing plan, and new applications were once again accepted. On January 11th the required lottery was held to select and log-in the 706 applications resulting from the announcement that Cabrini Apartments was accepting them. Four of Cabrini’s staff participated in drawing from the stack of envelopes, numbering, date stamping, and logging them into a permanent file. The next step would be to review every application for adherence to the HUD requirements.
Those who applied were the following: Asian – 517; Hispanic – 9; Black, Non-Hispanic – 23; White, Non-Hispanic – 87 and other – 1. Of the total, 52 were rejected upon review due to age, income, family size (no more than 2 permitted) and/or lack of a social security number.
A recent study reported that almost 102,000 people over the age of 62 wait an average of 7 years to access a rent regulated apartment in one of the 119 buildings in New York City. In addition the true estimated number of those waiting is probably closer to 200,000 when the poor response rate to the survey is taken into consideration. Nearly 20% of all New Yorkers are over 60 years of age, and 20% of those live below the poverty level. Both numbers are growing. The federal HUD program that Cabrini Apartments’ tenants enjoy is no longer funding new apartments so it is incumbent on the cities to provide for their elders in need.
We at Cabrini Apartments are moved by the many difficult stories told by the applicants and tenants of their former living arrangements. From living on a roof-top to being trapped in a 5th floor walkup apartment for years, to residing in a shelter, each one bears its own struggles and sorrows. Would that we had more buildings to house them safely, comfortably and affordably. For now, we welcome each new tenant as if they were the only one and offer them the opportunity to enjoy their later years in dignity.