For the past few years, most news surrounding the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) hasn’t been good. The embattled authority has faced lead paint scandals, embarrassing heat and hot water outages, and myriad issues that forced the agency’s former chair, Shola Olatoye, to resign back in April. Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency during that same month to expedite repairs.
Last week, the city unveiled a $10-year, $24 billion plan that would bring full repairs to 175,000 NYCHA residents while also transforming underutilized public-owned NYCHA land into new developments, with proceeds going toward repairs for surrounding public housing. And while this is a step in the right direction, it’ll only begin to address NYCHA’s mountain of issues.
But NYCHA’s issues don’t solely affect the residents of its many New York City buildings: A new report from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) highlights how the authority’s myriad crises impact the entire city’s economy. Aside from being the city’s largest source of affordable housing, NYCHA residents play a vital role in the city’s workforce; its developments are major contributors to community resources; and if just 10 percent of its public housing was lost, nearly 40,000 residents would be displaced and could increase homelessness in NYC by 62 percent.
The detailed 26-page report (PDF!) goes into the specifics of how NYCHA developments contribute to the vibrancy of the city, and why prompt repairs are of the utmost importance.
“As important as NYCHA and its residents are to New York City, the physical condition of many of its buildings are now a disgrace,” per the report. “[W]hat is certain is that if NYCHA continues on the current trajectory of endlessly deferred maintenance and compound-ing deterioration there will eventually be the need to evacuate significant portions of our public housing.”
While it’s unlikely that any NYCHA developments would be shut down in the foreseeable future, not adequately addressing desperately needed repairs could make the cost of repairs jump by $700 million dollars every year.
As far as NYCHA’s contributions to the city are concerned, the report notes that public housing developments are home to 121 senior centers (almost half of all the senior centers in NYC); 126 pre-schools and childcare facilities; and 189 acres of recreational space (community gardens, basketball courts, playgrounds, etc.). NYCHA residents spend more than $2 billion per year supporting local business and many residents are entrepreneurs, owning more than 650 local businesses themselves. Additionally, NYCHA residents were found to be employed at similar rates as other New York City residents and are a critical component of the workforce in certain industries, like health and retail trade.
“We completed this report not only to dispel some of the myths about NYCHA, but to explain that all New Yorkers have a stake in fixing this system,” says Moses Gates of the Regional Plan Association. “NYCHA is a huge net positive to the city, and it’s a real contributor to neighborhoods. Losing some of its developments would have an adverse affect on our city.”
Read the report in its entirety here.