Harlem Public Housing Needs Billion$ To Make Repairs

August 13, 2014

Philips Senior House

It’s also noteworthy that federal law prohibits local governments from building more public housing than already exists.

Gothamist reports that the devolving public housing situation in NYC is just getting worse, and the New York City Housing Authority requires an injection of about $18 billion just to make necessary repairs that’ll keep desperately needed housing stock habitable.

The NY Times reports today that NYCHA is suffering from a $77 million budget deficit, and has entered a phase that chairwoman Shola Olatoye has described as “pretty dire.” Though federal funding covers the majority of NYCHA’s budget, they only received $294 million for capital projects this year, as opposed to $419 million in 2001. Decrepit buildings are plagued with everything from leaky roofs to mold to chunks of brick falling onto the street below, and the city doesn’t have enough money to do repairs. One 12-story building shows a crack running through a top-to-bottom line of apartments. “I wish it were triage,” Olatoye told the paper. “It’s beyond triage.”

NYCHA also faces an overwhelming demand. Last year, 270,000 people were waitlisted for a spot in one of the city’s 178,900 total units, all of which were occupied. But since funds for repairs are so low, some of the city’s housing stock is uninhabitable—at Harlem River Houses, for instance, leaks are so severe that whole floors and individual apartments have been emptied. In December, reports showed that nearly 800 units were vacant.

Mayor de Blasio’s administration has pledged to find adequate funding for NYCHA, but finding those funds will prove to be difficult. Last month, a Community Service Society report advocated for a “parallel capital investment” between the city and state, in addition to terminating agreements requiring NYCHA to pay $100 million to the city annually for special police services. Though the city and state once contributed to NYCHA, that has dropped off significantly.

Previously, Mayor Bloomberg had proposed leasing public housing land for luxury developers, hoping to generate revenue for NYCHA that could be put back into redevelopment and repairs. That plan racked up significant controversy, though, and de Blasio will not be returning to it, arguing that land should be reserved for low-income and middle-income families.

It’s also noteworthy that federal law prohibits local governments from building more public housing than already exists. Most of the city’s current public housing stock was built between 1942 and 1969.

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