If the New York City Housing Authority ever has good days, today isn't one of them. A three-year audit led by Comptroller Scott Stringer whose findings were released yesterday afternoon reports that NYCHA keeps apartments in need of major repairs vacant for an average of seven years. Think that's bad? 80 apartments surveyed in the audit, which spanned from July 2012 to April 2015 and covered 328 developments, have been vacant for over a decade. Another 161 have been without tenants for between three and ten years. In a statement issued with the audit, Stringer noted that more than 270,000 people are waiting for an NYCHA apartment, and that New Yorkers on the list "deserve much better treatment" than what NYCHA is doling out.
The extended vacancies not only keep people waiting on the list longer, but also cost the city. The audit found that, during its trial, failure to return apartments to the rent roll cost the city $7.7 million. While a lot of the apartments remained vacant as teams were summoned to perform major improvements, others were kept off the books even after repairs were made. For example, apartments that were vacated for elevator repairs remained unrented even after the repairs were made for an average of 288 days. NYCHA says that its goal is to turn over vacated apartments that are not in need of major repairs in 40 days.
A lot of the lapse in time between renters has to do with a failure to properly classify the status of apartments in NYCHA's system. The authority claims that they have 2,342 vacant apartments, but the audit found that that figure was largely an estimate. Auditors visited a sample of 99 NYCHA apartments classified as vacant to find that 47 of them were actually occupied, 21 had been combined with other units, 17 were being used by NYCHA for offices or resident associations, and a handful of others were housing temporary tenants. Additionally, some of the vacant apartments are occupied by squatters. Stringer: "Knock, knock. Who lives there? NYCHA doesn't know."
The frustrated Comptroller and his office made ten recommendations for NYCHA, including monitoring vacant apartments, making a greater effort to turn apartments over quickly, and completing repairs promptly.
· Audit Report on the New York City Housing Authority's Management of Vacant Apartments [official]
· New York City Public Housing Units Remain Empty Unnecessarily, Audit Finds [NYT]
· All NYCHA coverage [Curbed]