In the wake of what is being described as systematic failures within New York City’s Housing Authority, NYCHA, the agency will cede much of its control to a government appointed housing monitor and stop just short of a full federal seizure.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced last week that the soon-to-be appointed monitor will wield sweeping power over NYCHA that includes setting a plan to fix dilapidated housing stock and hiring workers to implement that plan.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the deal to end a federal lawsuit over the lawsuit over hazards in the city’s public housing portfolio that include lead-based paint, mold, cold, vermin, and more.
“The families who have endured unimaginably poor housing conditions deserve better from their housing authority,” said Secretary Carson. “Today we are presenting NYCHA residents with bold new solutions for decades-old problems.”
Additionally, the agreement mandates that the city inject $2.2 billion throughout the next 10 years to address issues. In a statement, HUD estimates their contribution to NYCHA to be $1.5 billion, but a ratified federal budget still sits in limbo as lawmakers continue to debate over funding for increased border security between the U.S. and Mexico.
As per the agreement, the monitor will also submit quarterly reports to HUD that detail what progress has or has not been made.
In a joint press conference between the city and HUD on Jan. 31, Mayor Bill De Blasio said the issues with New York’s housing and intervention have been long in the making.
“Secretary Carson and I inherited a situation that was many decades in the making, and I wish we didn’t,” said De Blasio. “I wish that over those decades there had been consistent focus and support for public housing at all levels of government, but there was not.”
In just the past several months, NYCHA-owned buildings have made headlines for a number of glaring deficiencies including problems with heating and hot water that left hundreds of residents in the Bronx in the cold. Other stories include toxic mold, lead paint, and unmitigated flooding.
Specific benchmarks outlined in the agreement include the requirement the heating issues be fixed within 24 hours during cold seasons and a plan-of-action to abate housing that still contains lead paint.
Though NYCHA is set to receive in an injection of capital funding, critics have been quick to point out that the estimated $3.7 billion mandated in the agreement does little to address the extensive levels of backlogged repairs that the city estimates total $32 billion.
“Any agreement on the future of NYCHA between the Federal government and City Hall that lacks significant investment from the Federal government falls short,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a statement. “As such, the agreement signed falls short because it failed to secure any new Federal funding stream to combat billions in unmet capital repair needs.”
In an effort to address this growing backlog of renovations, the city has started to turn towards public-private partnerships which they hope will entice outside developers.
Last year, NYCHA announced a plan to bring repairs to 62,000 apartments by converting them into section 8 housing, leasing out properties to private developers, and also selling certain buildings’ air rights.
The move, NYCHA said, could inject as much as $13.2 billion into capital improvements.
According to Carson, an appointee for the position of housing monitor will likely be named in the weeks ahead.