Profitable a Housing Lottery and Figuring Out The way to Get Out of a Lease


Final fall, Rodica Miller discovered herself in a considerably unusual scenario: She had gained an affordable-housing lottery for a one-bedroom residence simply steps from the Roosevelt Island studio the place she’d been dwelling since 2018. However transferring there would imply a considerable lease enhance: from $2,050 a month to $2,468 a month.

For Ms. Miller, a 42-year-old particular schooling instructor who had been priced out of Roosevelt Island years earlier earlier than transferring again in 2018, it wasn’t a troublesome selection. The lottery residence could be lease stabilized, limiting future will increase to predictable and manageable quantities.

“While you’re paying market price, you’re on the mercy of the market,” she mentioned. “I used to be all the time very nervous about dwelling in a market-rate studio. I don’t wish to have to maneuver once more. I actually love Roosevelt Island.”

And, she reasoned, a one-bedroom could be an improve, one she had hoped she might afford sometime. After dwelling and dealing in a single room for six months, it was much more interesting. Ms. Miller had been instructing remotely since final March, when the pandemic shut down the Manhattan public highschool the place she works.

“I felt like, I’m in my 40s, I ought to have a bed room with a door,” she mentioned. “However even when you’re a middle-class skilled, discovering correct housing right here is all the time troublesome.”

There was only one drawback: She had simply signed a two-year lease for her studio in August.

$2,468 | Roosevelt Island

Occupation: Ms. Miller is a special-education instructor in a vocational program for highschool college students, Co-op Tech, which is on the Higher East Facet.
Through the pandemic: She fell much more in love with Roosevelt Island. She and her boyfriend, who lives on the Higher West Facet, purchased seaside chairs and spent many nice hours watching the river.
A brand new constructing: “I’ve by no means lived in a brand new residence earlier than. The opposite locations weren’t shabby, however all the things has points,” she mentioned. “Dwelling in New York Metropolis, I accepted issues I by no means would have accepted in Romania.”
Adjusting to her new house: Ms. Miller, who barely cooked earlier than the pandemic, determined she would discover ways to bake in her new house. “One time, I used to be preheating the oven — nothing was even in it — and the fireplace alarm went off. You possibly can’t take the batteries out such as you do in an older constructing, and it screams, ‘Hearth, fireplace.’ Even when I’m solely making tea now I activate the vent.”

Ms. Miller had crammed out the affordable-housing software within the spring after which “didn’t give it one other thought,” she mentioned. “I’d utilized to lotteries prior to now and by no means heard again. I knew the probabilities have been very small.”

After touring the brand new constructing and submitting all the required documentation, she reached out to her landlord, asking if she might terminate her lease. She assumed there could be a monetary penalty, which she was ready to pay.

However her landlord informed her that the lease couldn’t be terminated and that her solely possibility was to sublet the studio. Usually this wouldn’t have been a difficulty, however when Ms. Miller regarded on StreetEasy, she realized that studios in her constructing have been going for $300 lower than she was paying. (She renewed her lease with out researching the market and didn’t understand that rents had come down a lot throughout the pandemic.)

“Once I reached out to a dealer about attempting to lease it, the dealer mainly informed me, ‘You’d be ripping somebody off.’ ”

Subsequent, she tried to get the owner to drop her lease to what the opposite studios have been renting for. The reply was one other “No.”

“That’s once I actually began to hate them,” she mentioned. “I believed, ‘I’ve to get out of right here.’ ”

Ms. Miller was conscious that different tenants have been purchasing round to reap the benefits of the pandemic’s decrease rents, which many landlords supply as months of free lease as an alternative of an precise decrease month-to-month price. “I don’t just like the one- or two-month-free offers,” she mentioned. “I can’t transfer each few years.”

She additionally knew that she didn’t wish to threat having to go away Roosevelt Island, which she first fell in love with when she lived there from 2006 to 2008. “The inexperienced house is wonderful,” she mentioned. “It’s nothing like the remainder of New York.”

She even likes the structure, which reminds her of Romania, the place she grew up. “The structure just isn’t lovely. It’s just like the communist buildings in Japanese Europe,” she mentioned. “Some individuals don’t prefer it, however to me it’s comforting.”

In her first stint on Roosevelt Island, she shared a $1,500-a-month two-bedroom with a roommate. After the constructing went co-op, she spent 10 years in Jackson Heights, the place rents are usually decrease. She had a studio there and cherished that neighborhood, too, particularly the number of cheap eating places. However she missed the tranquillity of Roosevelt Island.

“There’s entry to nature right here that you just don’t have in Jackson Heights,” she mentioned. “I all the time wished to maneuver again, however I couldn’t afford the market rents for a very long time.”

She had additionally missed the fast half-hour commute to the Higher East Facet; on a very good day, her door-to-door commute from Jackson Heights was an hour every manner. Since transferring again, she’d been taking the ferry to work, which is about as idyllic as a New York Metropolis commute will get.

Detest to lose her likelihood at a rent-stabilized one-bedroom, she reached out to space politicians for assist getting out of her lease. When that failed, she wrote to Roosevelt Islander Online, a digital information website that covers the neighborhood. In response to Ms. Miller, as quickly because the Roosevelt Islander contacted her landlord, the owner agreed to terminate her lease. She didn’t even must pay a penalty.

“I informed them I used to be doing a narrative about Rodica profitable the affordable-housing lottery however not with the ability to get out of her present lease, and requested in the event that they wished to remark for the story,” mentioned Rick O’Conor, writer of Roosevelt Islander On-line. “I believe they didn’t wish to look dangerous and so they did the precise factor.”

Ms. Miller moved into her new residence, within the Riverwalk Park growth, this January. All of the rooms are a pleasant dimension. It’s additionally the primary time in 13 years that she has lived in an residence with a separation between the bed room and lounge.

She celebrated by ordering a sleeper couch (she by no means had the house for a sofa earlier than), in order that family members from Romania can go to her extra comfortably as soon as the pandemic is over. Due to pandemic-related delays, the sofa gained’t arrive till June, a full six months after she ordered it. In the mean time, a padded chair is filling in.

The residence additionally has an expansive view of the East River and Queensboro Bridge. She is aware of, although, that not like the residence itself, the views might not final.

“I really feel prefer it’s an emotional profit to have a view, however I informed myself I can’t get too hooked up to it,” mentioned Ms. Miller. “Like in Manhattan, nothing is everlasting. I do know they’re going to plant a constructing in entrance of it sooner or later.”