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Exclusive: New NYC Program To Help Residents With Disabilities Access Affordable Housing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City is about to announce a new program that ensures residents who are disabled have chance at winning the lottery -- the housing lottery, that is.

The city-run program awards new rentals at a reduced rate.

Morningside Heights resident Almany Sane struggles every day to carry his son's wheelchair up three flights of stairs and keep an eye on him at the same time.

"So difficult," he told CBS2's Lisa Rozner. "Because his weight, and also I have knee issues."

(Credit: CBS2)

Nineteen-year-old Cheikh Sane has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He's susceptible to seizures at any moment, and there are some days when Cheikh's father or brother aren't home, so he can't even leave the house. His father and mother work while raising three other kids.

They've looked for accessible housing for the last decade, and this year, they've been applying nonstop to the city's housing lottery, also known as Housing Connect, which they learned of from the nonprofit ADAPT.

"Ninety-five percent of the people that call us have no idea," said Amy Vittinger, with ADAPT Community Network.

Through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, a computer system chooses at random who wins. The city says there are more than 100,000 families like the Sanes applying to win an accessible unit in an elevator building. ADAPT has only seen 15 clients win in the last two years.

"Seven percent of affordable units that go through the housing lottery are designated and prioritized for people with these disabilities, so in the past three years, we have marketed over 2,000 units for mobility-, hearing-, vision-disabled," HPD assistant commissioner Emily Osgood said.

Now the city is putting even more on the market for those who are disabled, and with extra funding from Citibank, expanding its outreach to families.

"There's a huge need and there's going to be an ongoing need," ADAPT Community Network director Melissa Wilcox said.

"We just hope that something will come up sometime, someday," Almany Sane said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's Housing New York plan aims to build 300,000 new affordable units by 2026, and Almany Sane says it would be a blessing if his family could be in one of them.

One of the lowest rents in the lottery was a studio close to $400 a month. There's no limit on how many times one can apply.

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