HUD Secretary Ben Carson and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on January 31 that they reached an agreement on how to address problems related to health, safety, and agency operations at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The agreement avoids HUD having to place NYCHA into receivership, which was a concern to advocates (see Memo, 12/17/18). Instead, HUD and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), after consultation with NYCHA and the City, will appoint a federal monitor to be chosen “on the basis of merit.” The agreement also sets out detailed requirements for addressing past problems pertaining to mold, elevator outages, pest infestations, and lack of heat.
The agreement clearly states that the monitor will not be responsible for NYCHA’s day-to-day operations. The monitor will report quarterly to HUD, SDNY, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and these quarterly reports (“or a summary”) must be publicly available on NYCHA’s website.
The monitor must engage with NYCHA stakeholders, including residents and resident groups. The monitor must convene, at least quarterly, a Community Advisory Committee consisting of NYCHA stakeholders such as the Resident Advisory Board (RAB) and representatives for residents, the community, employees, and senior NYCHA managers.
NYCHA must prepare Action Plans setting forth policies, practices, and specific actions to address heating outages, mold, elevator outages, pests, and annual inspections. Each Action Plan must be submitted to the monitor for approval, with copies sent to HUD and SDNY. Each monitor-approved Action Plan must be posted on NYCHA’s website.
The City will pay all the costs associated with the monitor and any staff, expert consultants, or third-party contractors.
Shifting the Financial Burden from HUD to the City
The City agrees to provide a total of nearly $2 billion for capital expenses and $972 million for operating expenses spread out in smaller increments from fiscal years 2018 to 2027, as outlined in Appendix C. As promised previously, the City will also provide an additional $1 billion for capital repairs over four years and an additional $200 million for such uses each year for at least six years after the first four years. HUD will not, however, increase funding for NYCHA’s estimated $32 billion capital shortfall. HUD agrees to support NYCHA’s PACT plan to convert approximately 62,000 units of public housing under the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), with a unique use of HUD’s Section 18 demolition/disposition process that will grant waivers to allow tenant protection vouchers to be converted to project-based vouchers for a portion of the units (see Memo, 12/17/18).
Addressing Lead-based Paint, Heat Outages, Mold, Elevator Repairs, and Pest Infestations
Exhibit A of the agreement details requirements for addressing lead-based paint problems. Within 30 days NYCHA must identify all developments built before January 1, 1978 (when lead-based paint was eliminated from the market) and the units in them, termed “Lead Paint Units.” NYCHA must create an “Immediate Action List” that identifies a subset of those units that NYCHA has reason to believe are occupied by or routinely visited by a child under the age of six. Also within 30 days, NYCHA has to perform at least one visual assessment of each Lead Paint Unit on the Immediate Action List. NYCHA must eliminate any lead-based paint hazards in these homes by undertaking interim control measures or by abating the hazards. Exhibit A also lays out a 20-year goal, in five-year increments, for abating lead-based paint in 100% NYCHA’s apartments.
Exhibit B of the agreement details requirements for addressing the provision of heat, remediating mold, repairing elevators, and combating pest infestations.
The agreement also sets out key institutional changes for NYCHA, including a process for selecting a permanent agency chair and CEO, and engaging a third-party management consultant to make recommendations to the City for changing NYCHA’s management, organizational, and workforce structure. NYCHA must create an Environmental Health and Safety Department and a Quality Assurance Unit. NYCHA agrees that it will not use deceptive practices with respect to Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) inspections, and that it will make all improvements in accordance with Uniform Physical Conditions Inspection Standards (UPCS).
The Community Service Society of New York (CSS) expressed relief that a HUD receivership was averted and that the agreement sidesteps the federal court (because SDNY has agreed to dismiss the case), thus avoiding delays and uncertainties in getting a new consent decree (see Memo, 12/17/18). The continued involvement of SDNY in the monitoring process provides some assurance that, if NYCHA falls short in its compliance, a new suit could be brought in federal court.
CSS notes, however, that the success of the agreement is highly dependent on who is appointed as the monitor. In addition, CSS states that “the major disappointment is that HUD will simply continue to fund NYCHA as it has in the past, there will be no increase in Washington commitments to the new federal-local partnership.”
“Today’s agreement is devoid of increased funding necessary for NYCHA to fully rehabilitate developments across the city and to provide tenants a decent quality of life,” stated Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Law Reform Unit at the Legal Aid Society. “The Housing Authority needs billions of dollars, and this settlement fails to appropriate resources of that scale. Once again, we call on Washington, Albany, and City Hall to fully fund NYCHA at a sufficient level to ensure that residents have reliable heat and hot water, roofs that don’t leak, apartments free of mold and vermin, and working elevator service.”
“The fundamental challenge that NYCHA faces is lack of funding for urgently needed repairs,” said Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO. “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 $50 billion backlog in needed repairs. NYCHA accounts for almost $32 billion of that amount. . .. 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.”
The agreement is at: https://bit.ly/2SjMeeL
Diane Yentel’s statement is at: https://nlihc.org/press/releases/11544
The CSS statement is at: https://bit.ly/2CY1nJ3