Washington, DC - The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) houses over 400,000 of New York City’s (NYC) lowest income renters. 1 in every 11 NYC renters lives in public housing. After decades of federal disinvestment, many public housing homes have fallen into serious disrepair. In the last 15 years, federal funding for public housing repairs has been cut in half. In his recent budget proposal, President Trump proposed eliminating funding for public housing repairs altogether. Because of this continuous underfunding of public housing repairs, today there is a nearly $50B backlog in needed repairs. NYCHA accounts for almost $32 billion of that amount.
Chronic federal underfunding of repairs leaves tens of thousands of New Yorkers, including seniors, people with disabilities and families with young children, living in some public housing homes that are in severe disrepair – with mold, no heat, no running water, leaky ceilings and toilets. NYCHA has had serious management issues over the years, and those must be addressed. But the fundamental challenge that NYCHA faces is lack of funding for urgently needed repairs.
A federal monitor, selected and appointed by HUD and who reports directly to HUD, together with a new NYCHA Chair approved by HUD, is just one step away from administrative receivership and all of its potentially disastrous outcomes. With this agreement, HUD must take great care in appointing a federal monitor with deep expertise and a proven track record in running successful public housing programs.
HUD cannot oversee the day-to-day management of one of the country’s largest public housing authorities; its political leadership lacks needed expertise and is ill-equipped to take on such a monumental and critical task. HUD remains without a confirmed Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, and the Department’s most qualified and knowledgeable political appointee, Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, recently resigned. The acting Deputy Secretary, while qualified to oversee the FHA as he was confirmed to do, lacks expertise in public housing programs.
To best help public housing residents, Secretary Carson should focus his efforts on what is most needed and what he can best influence – increased federal funding for capital repairs. Given all that he has said about his concern for public housing residents, I hope to see him propose a major funding increase for public housing repairs in the president’s FY20 budget request. Given his track record to date, I expect he’ll instead continue proposing deep cuts to public housing repair funding while pointing fingers at NYCHA and the City, blaming them for the problems that federal disinvestment created.
About National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC): Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.