In what the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called an “unprecedented” deal, the federal government and the City of New York agreed on a plan to fix and restore the City’s crumbling public housing.
On Monday, HUD, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a consent decree with New York City and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to resolve widespread issues of lead, mold, and other inadequate living conditions in the nation’s largest public housing system.
Under the terms of the agreement, the City of New York will invest at least $1.2 billion into NYCHA to fix lead-based paint hazards in tens of thousand of public housing units and to correct longstanding issues with heating, elevators, and the significant backlog of work orders.
A court-appointed monitor will oversee the City’s repair work to ensure it complies with the agreement.
There are more than 400,000 residents in NYCHA, a system that New York State put under a state of emergency in April, and is committing up to $550 million to help fix the myriad of issues the system is facing.
In addition to annual public housing capital funding from HUD, the City will be required to provide $1 billion in capital funding over the first four years of the agreement, $200 million in capital funding each year after the initial four-year period, additional operating and capital funds through 2027, and the City will continue its current practice of not seeking payments from NYCHA for ‘payments in lieu of taxes’ and police services.
NYCHA will also be instituting a number of institutional changes at the agency as part of the agreement. They include the creation of a new compliance department, an environmental health and safety department, and a quality assurance unit.
The agreement effectively resolves the federal government’s scathing 80-page civil complaint against NYCHA that accused the agency of failing its residents.
Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the agreement, saying at a press conference that it was a “pivotal moment” for the 400,000 public housing residents.
“Decades of divestment by the federal and state governments and decades of neglect by New York City government have pushed our public housing system to the brink. I didn’t run for mayor to continue that history. I ran to help turn it around,” said de Blasio in a statement Monday.
“By further acknowledging and providing solutions to a decades-old pattern of mismanagement, divestment and neglect, I am confident this settlement will be a turning point for our public housing system. ”
However, not everyone agreed with the City’s decision to sign the consent decree.
City Councilman Ritchie Torres criticized the terms of the agreement, saying that by signing the consent decree, the city was giving away its power to federal authorities.
“Today is a dark moment for public trust in government. Never in the history of New York has the City been subject to a consent decree that imposes both a federal monitor and a multi-billion dollar payment, one that surrenders both local control and local dollars to federal power,” said Torres, who is chair of the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations, in a statement.
“The mismanagement of NYCHA, as well as the attempt by the de Blasio Administration to mislead the public about the full nature and extent of that mismanagement, will be remembered as a blight on the legacy of our current Mayor, and those who came before him.”
Advocacy group Housing Rights Initiative agreed with Torres, tweeting on Monday that “In the wake of the scandal, more political capital was spent on saving the former chair’s job than doing a better job for the families of NYCHA.”
The consent decree comes after years of financial struggles for NYCHA, and the resignation of NYCHA chair Shola Olatoye in April, after intense criticism over a lead paint scandal.
The City Department of Investigation released a report in November 2017 stating that she falsely certified that NYCHA was performing all required lead paint inspections.