Another day, another report about the horribly bleak outlook for New York City's public housing. Today, the Times chronicles NYCHA's financial situation, which is, to put it mildly, "dire." The authority's 2,602 buildings in 334 developments were mostly built between 1942 and 1969, and all are in desperate need of repairs, as they have never been significantly upgraded. To put that in perspective, Dr. Nicholas D. Bloom, a public housing expert and associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology told the Times, "Basically, it's a 1950s automobile that New York City is still driving. It's like Cuba." And it's going to take a lot of time and a lot of money for the situation to improve. Government funding for public housing has been shrinking for years, and currently NYCHA has a $77 million budget deficit and needs $18 billion for major building repairs and upgrades. It plans to spend $3.1 billion just this year.
An official from the Department of Housing and Urban Development said "it's a perfect storm of an aging building stock at the same time of massive housing cuts from Congress." According to the Times, federal funding for capital projects (i.e major building repairs) has "shrunk cumulatively by over $1 billion in the last decade or so, to $294 million this year from $419 million in 2001." Financing for operations have also dropped, but not as much, from $920 million in 2010 to $830 million in 2013. A report by the Community Service Society shows that while the city and state both used to contribute to annual subsidies for the authority, the state has pretty much stopped paying any money at all, and the city only allocates funds to certain programs.
In the city's largest projects, the needs are mind-boggling. At Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx, where 5,000 people live in 14 buildings, the cost of repairs totals $23 million. And the repairs are serious; an entire line of apartments in a 12-story building shows cracks At the Baruch Houses in the Lower East Side17 buildings and 5,100 tenants, the largest in the citythe projected cost for repairs over the next five years reaches $241.9 million. These buildings need things like new windows and facade repairs so chunks don't fall on pedestrians. In other developments, problems have caused large swaths of units to be inhabitable. At the Harlem Houses, where $22 million worth of repairs are set to begin, the entire top floors of buildings have been vacated because the roofs leak so badly and need to be replaced.
The city is well aware that something drastic needs to be done. Mayor Bill de Blasio did not include NYCHA in his detailed affordable housing report because it is in such a state that it needs its own report, which the administration plans to release this December. The plan will likely include cost-cutting measures like reducing overtime for NYCHA employees and transferring control of community spaces to other agencies or social service groups, but "a massive amount" of money is needed. The Bloomberg administration had proposed selling open space within public housing to private developers to raise funds, but the controversial plan was met with strong opposition. The new administration has since stayed away from the idea, but even if they went ahead with it, officials say development would not bring in nearly enough money.
· Public Housing in New York Reaches a Fiscal Crisis [NYT]
· 10 Surprising Facts About NYCHA, New York's 'Shadow City' [Curbed]
· All NYCHA coverage [Curbed]