New York City’s housing lottery is not unlike the actual lottery: The payoff is potentially life-changing, but your odds of winning are slim to none. Just one out of every 593 applications is approved. Still, millions of people apply every year even though the process is about as complicated as buying a house. You just have to submit a dozen documents including W-2s, proof of rent payments, pay stubs, bank statements, and so on. And then you wait. And wait some more. A new report by the nonprofit Citizens Housing and Planning Council shows just how long this all really takes: An average of 371 days pass before all lottery units in a new development are rented out. That means new affordable apartments are left sitting empty for more than a year. What’s going on?

Rhetorically, the positions staked out by various groups pushing to expand affordable housing sound very similar.

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