Widely hailed as a successful and exemplary model for middle-class housing in New York City, Mitchell-Lama units are hard to come by, many having years-long waiting lists, but they do exist in Brooklyn.

What is Mitchell-Lama housing?

Created in 1955 by New York State Senator MacNeil Mitchell and Brooklyn Assemblyman Alfred Lama, who sponsored that year’s Limited Profit Housing Companies Act, Mitchell-Lama Housing provides affordable rentals and co-ops to middle-income households.

The buildings received special low-interest mortgage loans and tax breaks in return for keeping prices low. (Co-ops, for example, cannot be sold at market rate.) They are subject to Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) supervision.

Mitchell Lama Housing Brooklyn

The first City Council oversight hearing on Mitchell-Lama housing in seven years being held in the Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room. Photo via the office of the borough president

How many Mitchell-Lama units exist?

The program supported the construction of 269 state-supervised developments with 105,000 affordable units citywide, 18,000 of which were located in Brooklyn.

Both co-op and rental complexes [PDF] exist in Brooklyn, with some, like the Linden Plaza development at 675 Lincoln Avenue, hosting well over 1,000 units of housing.

All together, today there are 97 Mitchell-Lama buildings in Brooklyn, according to Borough President Eric Adams.

There used to be more Mitchell Lama units.

After 20 years, the housing companies and cooperatives that created the buildings can voluntarily exit the program. Many rental buildings have gone market rate; more co-ops remain.

Between 2003 and 2009 alone, the remaining Mitchell-Lama complex count in Brooklyn was reduced from 135 to 97 due to privatization and buyouts, according to Adams.

Concern over privatization of Mitchell-Lama buildings

Mitchell-Lama housing is widely considered to be one of New York’s most successful affordable housing programs, and local elected officials have recently said they want to save the program’s remaining units.

“Mitchell-Lama was one of the most effective affordable housing programs ever implemented in New York City. Now, the Mitchell-Lama program is in a state of crisis and is rapidly disappearing,” City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, said at a City Council oversight hearing on March 1, its first in seven years regarding the statewide program.

“New York City — and Brooklyn in particular — is facing an affordable housing crisis, and there is no better place to focus on the preservation of these precious units than in our Mitchell-Lama complexes,” Adams seconded.

Council Members Mark Levine and Laurie Cumbo also declared the need for increased City Council oversight and accountability of agencies like the HPD to preserve the remaining developments.

Mitchell Lama Housing Brooklyn

Maximum income and household size requirements for Mitchell-Lama; individual buildings vary. Image via HDP

What’s next for Mitchell-Lama housing?

No new Mitchell-Lama developments have been built since the 1970s, and all have now passed the 20-year requirement at which time they can be dissolved, according to Brick Underground.

How you can get a Mitchell-Lama unit

Mitchell-Lama units are sold or rented through development-specific waitings lists. When your name rises to the top, you’re in (assuming you qualify).

Some buildings have immediate availabilities; most have waiting lists that are decades long, and some waiting lists periodically close and open. Sometimes lotteries determine who gets on the waiting list.

For more information on the Mitchell-Lama Automated Waiting List (AWL), as it is known, and for information on how to get on one, see the New York State’s FAQ page.

As the page recommends, sometimes information regarding the AWL for a specific development can be better found by directly contacting [PDF] the development’s management office.