NYC Foster System: How To Find Affordable Housing in NYC

Ryan Villanueva
Dec 4, 2016 · 3 min read

Finding housing when you’re aging out of foster care.

“You have to get out into it, because for housing, nobody is going to do it for you. You have to go out and find it yourself.”

Usually, case managers will emphasize NYCHA housing as the main option when you age out. Housing is scarce, but not everyone knows that there are other options they should look into.


  1. If you’re planning on going to college, read more about the CUNY dorm housing program and apply if it fits your situation.
  2. If you’re willing to look outside NYC, apply to Section 8 in other New York counties like Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, and Suffolk.
  3. Read more about Habitat for Humanity housing. If it fits your needs, work with your case worker to write them a letter telling your story.
  4. Apply to everything else you possibly qualify for.


But not all NYCHA housing is in the projects. There are occasionally NYCHA apartments available in normal tenement buildings. Every Sunday, check the Classified section of the newspaper. Look under NYC Housing Developments under the Affordable Housing subsection and apply to any housing according to the instructions. Start as early as possible, even if you’re just 16 years old.

Also keep an eye out for HDFC housing. This is housing that the landlord hasn’t taken care of and the tenants have purchased it back from them at a very, very low price. They are fairly rare, but if you find one these apartments can be purchased very cheaply.

“Apply for everything they offer you so you can weigh your options.”

Section 8

“Most of the time they’re paying 80% of your rent. They want you to help you get something better.”

Everybody knows that Section 8 is always full, right? While that might be true for New York City, few people know that you can apply to other counties as well. If it fits your needs, you can apply to Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, and Suffolk counties too. They tend to have more openings than NYC.

With Section 8, most people know they’ll contribute to your rent. But if you’re in school, they’ll also take part of your rent and put it in a fund. At a certain point they will help you use that money as a down payment for a house of your own.

CUNY Dorm Housing

“Apply to everything. Even applying to being on the dorm. If you don’t want to be in supportive housing or NYCHA, then there are programs to put you in the dorms.”

If you’d like to attend college, you should look at CUNY schools. ACS started a new program with the CUNY school system that dormitory housing and extra financial support until you’re 23 years old. It is a great program for your transition but you should keep applying to other options for after college.

Read more here.

Habitat for Humanity

You’ll have to really market yourself. Your case worker needs to be your main advocate.

Read more here.


  1. How to continue your education
  2. How to get a job

This is an project developed at #hackfostercarenyc and based off interviews from youth from the foster care system. It is not written or endorsed by the NYC Administration for Children’s Service.

Aging Out NYC

An unofficial guide to transitioning out of the foster care…

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