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Time to get RAD with public housing

When state lawmakers return to Albany next month to start the new legislative session, they will have an opportunity to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of public housing residents statewide by leveraging the tools offered by the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.

At a time when public housing infrastructure remains in urgent need of repairs and upgrades, RAD enables local housing authorities to convert public housing units into Section 8 rental housing while maintaining tenants’ rights as public housing residents.

A RAD conversion, as it is typically called, allows these properties to remain under public ownership while being managed by private developers who can commit the significant funding and resources needed to repair the buildings and provide day-to-day maintenance.

RAD has already been utilized successfully in New York City at New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Ocean Bay development, which was devastated by Superstorm Sandy and required a wide array of infrastructure repairs. Following its RAD conversion and the availability of new private capital and resources, Ocean Bay has become one of NYCHA’s most modern properties, greatly enhancing living standards for its thousands of residents.

That is why Mayor de Blasio and his administration recently announced a plan to help finance the renovation of an additional 62,000 units of NYCHA housing using RAD.

Those repairs, which will include extensive remodeling of kitchens and bathrooms, will be advanced alongside other building improvements, such as replacing windows, elevators, boilers, roofs and common areas.

The demand for RAD in other parts of New York is also increasing. Public housing authorities throughout the state have requested RAD conversions at numerous properties. It makes sense for public housing residents Upstate to share in these benefits alongside their counterparts in New York City.

All this heightened demand for RAD has come on the heels of changes enacted last year by the federal government, which opened the program up for wider utilization at the local level.

Now, the speed with which the program can be leveraged will, in part, depend on how many new resources can be provided at the state level — along with those committed by City leaders — to help generate and finance additional RAD conversions across the state.

This is one question that state lawmakers will consider as they return to Albany for the new legislative session.

NYSAFAH believes that providing additional state resources for RAD should be included in New York State’s housing priorities for 2019, in light of the ongoing need for public housing improvements and the fact that this program has already proven that it can provide significant benefits for public housing residents.

We look forward to promoting this housing priority throughout the coming legislative session as part of a broader discussion around improving the lives of public housing residents and other low-income households across New York State.

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