Clayton Apartments is located at 485 Lenox Ave. in Harlem. Credit: This map includes data from:© 2024 Google

If you’re looking for a long-term and affordable place to call home, a new housing lottery is giving New Yorkers the chance to buy a co-op apartment well below market rate: Clayton Apartments in Harlem. Studio to three-bedroom apartments will cost between $12,615 and $29,367. 

Prices are so low because Clayton Apartments is part of an affordable housing program known as Mitchell-Lama, which subsidizes rentals and co-ops for low—to moderate-income families. 

What’s Mitchell-Lama? 

The Mitchell-Lama program dates back to 1955. It was created by two New York state lawmakers, Senator MacNeil Mitchell and Assemblyman Alfred Lama. 

The process of purchasing a Mitchell-Lama co-op varies per building. Generally, the first step for interested buyers is to enter a lottery to get on a building’s waitlist. These lotteries usually happen only once every few years. Waitlist lotteries are posted on the Mitchell-Lama Connect website. 

If your name is selected in the lottery, you then have the opportunity to go on a waitlist to purchase a home. 

Mitchell-Lama co-ops operate similarly to traditional co-ops. After purchasing, homeowners pay a monthly maintenance fee, which goes towards things like paying building staff and property insurance. The big difference between the two is that in a traditional co-op when the owner wants to sell, they can sell to anyone at the market rate. However, in Mitchell-Lama buildings, the owners usually must sell the apartment back to the building. In addition, the owner can usually only sell it back for their purchase price rather than market rate. This process keeps homes affordable and allows the next person on the waitlist to purchase a home. 

The demand for these apartments is incredibly high, considering skyrocketing rents and low vacancy rates.

Current open lottery: Clayton Apartments

The deadline to apply for this lottery is July 10. The purchase prices and maintenance fees are below. 

  • Studios
    • Price: $12,615
    • Maintenance fee: $799 – $854
  • One bedroom:
    • Price: $20,241
    • Maintenance fee: $885 – $1,134
  • Two bedroom
    • Price: $23,212
    • Maintenance fee: $1,326 – $1,415
  • Three bedroom
    • Price: $29,367
    • Maintenance fee: $1,550 – $1,835

Income restrictions 

There are income restrictions for purchases at Clayton Apartments.  If you are put on the waitlist and later called to buy an apartment, your income must come between the minimum or maximum for this building: 

  • Studio: $31,960 – $174,750 
  • One bedroom: $35,400 – $174,750 
  • Two bedroom: $53,040 – $194,125 
  • Three bedroom: $62,000 – $225,125

What you need to know before applying

  • Applicant must be a New York State resident.
  • Applicant/head of household must be at least 18 years old at the time of the lottery.
  • Applications can be submitted online at Mitchell-Lama Connect or by mail. The address and directions for mailed applications are on the lottery listing at the end of this article. 
  • Veterans will be given preference if selected.  
  • The co-op is limiting how many families can get on its waitlist. The limits are:
    • Studio: 300 applicants
    • One bedroom: 300 applicants
    • Two bedroom: 150 applicants 
    • Three bedroom: 100 applicants

The application process 

We went through the online application process. It took 10 minutes. The first step is to create an account and apply on the Mitchell-Lama Connect portal

The website is pretty simple to navigate. Credit: Mitchell-Lama Connect

This website is antiquated, so navigating it can be glitchy. If you see an error message when loading the pages, just give it time and try reloading the website again. When we encountered this message, the listings on the page showed up again within a few hours.   

Once you select the unit or units you want to apply for,  fill out your contact information, including your name, current residential address, phone number and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Then, you’re ready to submit. 

You can apply to multiple apartment sizes, but you must apply to them separately, and you cannot apply for the same-sized unit more than once. 

What happens if you’re picked for the waitlist

Candidates picked for the lottery will be notified. They will then be required to complete a second part of the application and pay an application fee of $75. This has to be done officially before you can join the waitlist. You will forfeit your spot on the waiting list if it’s not completed within the allotted time frame. 

Your time on the waitlist will vary. It can be as short as a few months or as long as several years.  Units only become available only when there is turnover in the buildings.   

From waiting list to purchasing 

When waiting-list applicants are notified to buy an apartment, they will undergo an eligibility and financial screening interview before the unit becomes theirs. The interview, conducted by the managing agent, reviews income and household members, financial documents, credit history, etc. 

Paying for a co-op

Many of these co-ops do not allow traditional financing. Would-be homeowners may be required to pay the entire cost, but help is available. 

  • Hebrew Free Loan Society
    • This loan program lends interest-free loans to New York City, Westchester or Long Island residents. You can borrow up to $30,000 to buy a Mitchell-Lama apartment. Learn more here.

Additional resources about NYC housing lotteries  

  • Housing Ambassadors for People with Disabilities dedicate specialized services for applicants who are living with disabilities. More information can be found here

As you may have noticed, Mitchell-Lama Connect is similar to NYC Housing Connect.  Both housing programs require separate applications, and applying to both can boost your chances of winning affordable housing.    

The ad for Clayton Arms includes postal information. Credit: NYC HPD

Check out more of our housing stories here.

Juliana Giacone is a journalism graduate student at Columbia Journalism School. Her work has been published in The Hechinger Report, in collaboration with The City, Chalkbeat NY and The New York Times....

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