New York’s Public Housing System Enters Financial Crisis Mode

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New York City public housing is in demand from just about everyone, but there may not be enough to go around.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan to convert open land in the projects into affordable housing units, and over a quarter of a million families are on the waiting list for the New York City Housing Authority’s 334 developments. Homeless advocates want apartments for families living in shelters, and school districts want to carve out sections for new preschool classrooms. One out of every six people in the US moves every year, and this is especially true of cities like New York where rising rent or poor conditions often chase residents to new buildings.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan to convert open land in the projects into affordable housing units, and over a quarter of a million families are on the waiting list for the New York City Housing Authority's 334 developments.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan to convert open land in the projects into affordable housing units, and over a quarter of a million families are on the waiting list for the New York City Housing Authority’s 334 developments.

But Nycha may not be up to the task of housing the many displaced or low-income New Yorkers searching desperately for a rare affordable apartment. The agency is up against a $77 million budget deficit as a result of shrinking government investment over the years.

Officials are referring to the shortage as dire, and the authority is having trouble even meeting it’s day-to-day obligations. Many public housing units are falling into disrepair, renovations are being postponed, and and the Mayor’s long-term goals are looking difficult to accomplish.

The job of restructuring an eighty-year-old public housing system that no longer really works has fallen largely to the Mayor, who ran on a platform of making the city liveable for it’s poorer residents. However, federal funding has been shrinking and wildly inconsistent since the 2000s, and the consequences of that are finally coming to a head.

The de Blasio administration plans to raise the billions of dollars needed to keep the decades-old buildings habitable far into the future, but it’s not going to be an easy job. Windows need ceiling, bricks are falling from buildings, and sidewalks are cracked and hazardous. Some residents are worried that their whole building may just fall down. It may take nothing short of a government rescue plan from the state and city governments to make the necessary repairs.

Public housing units in other cities have been largely demolished in other cities, but the massive income disparity and shortage of affordable housing in the city has kept public housing there alive longer than usual, but unless something changes, the buildings will no longer be sustainable. Even adding more developments will only bring in a fraction of the money necessary to turn things around.

The de Blasio administration is working on a strategy that will likely involve cutting overtime costs and transferring community spaces to other city agencies to save costs. Financial responsibilities may also be transferred to individual housing projects to make property managers more accountable for the state of the buildings. They also plan to petition the state for more funds.

Until then, residents have little choice but to stay in the crumbling public housing buildings.

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