VOCAL-NY partnered with TakeRoot Justice to conduct a participatory action research project to document the experience of looking for housing with subsidies. The findings derive primarily from matched pair testing: the representatives of 114 apartment listings advertised on Zillow and Trulia were contacted by researchers. Each representative was contacted by someone presenting as having a housing subsidy as well as by someone presenting with income from employment. The outcomes of the outreach were then compared to evaluate differences in treatment. In addition to matched pair testing, we also called the Brooklyn-based property management companies and apartment buildings listed on a resource list provided by the New York City Human Resources Administration to evaluate the usefulness of that list.
This research was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City and our communities. Stable housing has always been a public health issue, and the pandemic has brought that issue into great relief, as the City has struggled to meet basic safety standards for homeless New Yorkers. As more New Yorkers find themselves in need of support and safety nets to survive the economic fallout of the pandemic, housing must be more accessible to subsidy holders. The findings from our research are more salient than ever. As housing insecurity grows throughout the city, more protections need to be in place for tenants who rely on subsidies to pay their rent.