Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How we bought an affordable 3-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. (PSST: SEWING ROOM)

Me, painting our new three-bedroom apartment bright orange and turquoise, as one does

Yeah, so, we bought a three-bedroom prewar apartment in Manhattan through an affordable housing organization. It was all rather sudden. We couldn't afford our neighborhood in Brooklyn anymore (see here for explanation of the below image)...

So we started hunting around in June and it looked like we were going to be moving to New Jersey or high up in the Bronx, and we kept applying to housing lotteries with no luck and all the waiting lists for Mitchell Lama buildings were YEARS long and then I randomly started reading about income-restricted HDFC coop affordable housing apartments...

And I came across an article about UHAB, a non-profit organization that fixes up dilapidated buildings and then sells the occupied apartments to current tenants and vacant apartments to moderate and low income families. What's especially cool about these apartments is that they are permanently affordable — they are real homes, not market-rate investments. Under new HDFC rules, they can only EVER be sold to families who fit the income restrictions for pretty much the exact price paid (plus inflation).

And I randomly called this organization and they had ONE three-bedroom apartment left for a family of our size and income in a building in Harlem and it could MAYBE be ours if we got our application in right away. So we stayed up all night assembling a massive pile of documents and bank statements and landlord letters and identity papers and paystubs and I messengered it over the next day.

After months of additional paperwork and various hurdles, it was done. We moved in September just in time for the start of kindergarten for Ms. Z and here I sit today in our new home in a 1910 elevator building in beautiful Hamilton Heights, Harlem.

So what about that sewing room, you ask?! Do such things exist in the isle of Manhattan?

Well, sort of. It's really a bedroom for one of the kids, but the little baby dude is still in a crib in our room for now, so I am going to temporarily luxuriate in the feeling of having an actual sewing room.

Except that it is just a big pile of boxes at the moment:

And the only thing I've actually sewn in there so far was a gusset to expand Z's Ghostbusters Halloween costume because we didn't have time for a new costume idea this year.

Because life these days has been all about the sleep-deprivation of being a full-time working mom with a nursing-through-the-night baby, plus some unpacking, painting, and assembling of furniture...

Ruby the Riveter: My dad helps Z assemble her IKEA Kura bed.

I can't complain though. I may be a sleep-deprived half-functioning zombie, but the little dude is CUTE. And massive. And outgrowing all of his hand-knits which I have not had time to replace with newer, bigger knits.

P.S. Dressmakers, Tailors, Milliners and a Cartoonist

AND to top it all off, the building has a cool history. Z loves that we live just blocks from the former home of famed Harlem Renaissance anthropologist and writer Zora Neale Hurston. Plus my amazing mom put her genealogy skills to use and dug up the census records for 1910, 1920 and 1930. Upon which I learned that amidst the early residents of our building were quite a few:

  • dressmakers
  • milliners
  • tailors
  • silk and fabric salesmen
  • ... and even a well-known cartoonist!

So there you have it. It was MEANT TO BE. Now if I can just get around to hemming the curtains we hung up more than a month ago...