Their landlord hiked their rent by 25%, so they applied for the NYC housing lottery. On the 25th try, luck was on their side.

Their landlord hiked their rent by 25%, so they applied for the NYC housing lottery. On the 25th try, luck...

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The bedroom.
The bedroom.

  • A millennial couple won the New York City affordable-housing lottery after applying about 25 times.
  • Brynne McManimie, 35, and Peter Romano, 34, now live in a $2,800-a-month apartment in Brooklyn.
  • “It was unusually fast. I don’t think that’s the case for most people, but we got very lucky,” McManimie told BI.

In 2021, Brynne McManimie and Peter Romano lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Due to the pandemic, they had gotten a good deal on their lease and paid $2,600 in rent each month. But that didn’t last long.

“After a year, our landlord raised our rent by like 25% and it made us very nervous about staying in that apartment,” McManimie, an actor and teacher, told Business Insider. Their new rent was $3,300 a month.

“That’s when we were like, ‘OK, let’s just try the housing lottery,'” McManimie added.

For Romano, a New Yorker, and McManimie, a West Coast transplant who has been living in New York for 13 years, the affordable-housing lottery was one of those things they had always heard about.

A couple standing in front of a wall.
Brynne McManimie and Peter Romano

“It’s one of those things that was always talked about in our circle of friends because, as artists, there’s also artist housing in New York and we know many people who have lived in those,” McManimie said.

The decision to apply for the affordable-housing lottery was also sparked by their desire not to give up some of the perks they were already used to in Greenpoint — such as having a washer and dryer in their unit.

“A lot of these new buildings with the housing lottery are nice and have a lot of good amenities, but they’re a lot more affordable and in our price range,” McManimie said. “So that prompted us to go for it.”

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A pipe dream for most

The living room.
The living room.

The affordable-housing lotteries are run by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, or HPD, and the Housing Development Corporation.

Although applying is free, each household must meet specific income requirements to qualify for a lottery apartment. These vary across developments depending on unit size and location.

But winning the housing lottery is a pipe dream for most applicants: In 2018, The New York Times reported that the odds of winning were 1 in 592.

But luck was on the couple’s side.

The kitchen.
The kitchen.

“This actually happened very fast for us,” McManimie, 35, said. “I think we applied to this building in April 2023. We were contacted in May to submit documents but didn’t hear from them until September.”

By early October, they had already signed the lease and moved in.

“It was unusually fast. I don’t think that’s the case for most people, but we got very lucky,” McManimie said, adding that they had applied to about 25 different buildings.

$2,800 a month

The couple’s one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Clinton Hill came with a balcony. It’s a corner unit, so they have neighbors on only one side.

According to the latest May data from RentHop.com, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Clinton Hill is $3,750.

An alternate view of the living area and the balcony.
The apartment has a small balcony.

“It’s definitely smaller than our old apartment,” McManimie said. “The kitchen and the living room are all one big room, but everything is brand new. We’re the first people to live in this unit.”

It also had all the amenities they wanted: a dishwasher, a washer-dryer, central AC, and heating.

The couple signed a two-year lease on the apartment and now pay $2,800 monthly rent.

“Since it’s rent-stabilized, they can’t raise it like a ton,” Romano, an actor and professor, told BI. “Which is honestly really attractive to us, given what happened with our last landlord.”

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Every year, the Rent Guidelines Board decides the percentages by which landlords can legally increase rents for rent-stabilized apartments. In 2023, the board voted to raise rents on one-year leases by 3%, and on two-year leases by 2.75% for the first year and 3.2% for the second year, per The New York Times.

A close-up of their film camera collection.
A close-up of their film camera collection.

The day they moved in, it felt like a weight off their shoulders.

“I felt relieved, honestly,” Romano, 34, added. “Our financial situation — with this rent amount — was going to feel very good. And I remember when we sat down on the couch after the day, it was like, ‘Okay, I can breathe a little bit.'”

McManimie felt the same.

“I was a little nervous about downsizing even more. But after a couple of days, I didn’t really notice,” McManimie said. “Our building has a rooftop deck; we have a lounge upstairs to work in with a beautiful view of the city. We have a gym and a giant lobby.”

A close-up of the couple's bar cart
A close-up of the couple’s bar cart

Although the apartment is small — about 550 square feet — it still feels like they have a lot of space, she added.

A work in progress

Design-wise, the couple’s apartment is bright and colorful with midcentury influences.

McManimie is behind the decor, while Romano is the one who’s responsible for building their furniture.

“Since our space is so small, we looked for furniture with storage. Our coffee table, one of our stools, and our bed has additional storage,” McManimie said. “We also store things under our couch and above our cabinets.”

The bedroom.
The bedroom.

Other furniture pieces are from a vacation home they previously owned in Poconos with McManimie’s father.

“We sold it before we even applied for this apartment since it made us a little ineligible for a while,” Romano said. Those applying for rental units through the housing lottery aren’t allowed to own residential property in or within 100 miles of New York City limits.

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Although they were sad to see it go, it’s been nice not to have to manage a property, McManimie added: “I think people don’t always realize how hard it is to be a homeowner.”

Even now, they aren’t done decorating their apartment.

“Our bedroom is definitely still a work in progress,” McManimie said, adding that she’s looking for an antique mirror for the space. She also shared that she has an antique desk in storage that she’s planning to use as a vanity.

The living room.
The living room.

A ‘life-changing’ opportunity

Their biggest tip for anyone who wants to apply for the housing lottery is to have all the financial paperwork on hand during the application process.

“Your tax returns, your pay stubs — they asked for all of that information in quite a quick amount of time to turn around,” Romano said.

There’s also no point in applying for apartments that fall outside your income range since “they’re going to weed you out immediately,” McManimie said.

The bathroom.
The bathroom.

Applying for the housing lottery requires a lot of paperwork and many people end up unsuccessful in their bids, but it’s still worth a shot, she added.

“If you’re unhappy with your situation or your rent is too high, you might as well try,” McManimie said. “You have to decide what your priorities are.”

Ultimately, the apartment situation worked ouy well for them, she added.

“We’re really happy and very thankful that New York City has an affordable housing lottery. It’s definitely been life-changing,” she said.

Have you recently built or renovated your dream home? If you have a story to share, get in touch with me at [email protected].

Read the original article on Business Insider

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