Public housing

How private management of public housing hurts people with disabilities – New York Daily News

July is Disability Pride Month, but thousands of disabled tenants living in private NYCHA buildings have little to celebrate. Many are trapped in unsafe and inaccessible apartments thanks to a little-known NYCHA policy that severely limits their ability to transfer apartments, leaving them trapped in their own homes or forcibly homeless.

The Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) program is NYCHA’s rebranding of the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, which enables NYCHA to convert public housing into private Section 8 housing using private developers, owners and management companies that rehabilitate and manage buildings that are in urgent need of repair.

Although NYCHA claims that the RAD program improves building conditions and protects tenants’ rights, its transfer policy clearly discriminates against people with disabilities and others who need to transfer apartments quickly, such as domestic violence survivors, severely limiting when, how and where tenants can transfer apartments.

Under NYCHA transfer policy, tenants of RAD buildings are only allowed to transfer within the limited group belonging to the same private company. These lots have few vacancies and long waiting lists, forcing tenants to stay in unsafe apartments. Additionally, RAD tenants are not permitted to return to NYCHA buildings.

By comparison, tenants in NYCHA buildings have the right of transfer to any other development in the five boroughs for accommodations for people with disabilities and various other reasons.

If a renter with a disability needs to be moved out of a group for medical or other reasons, NYCHA will only issue that renter a “Section 8 Cellphone Voucher” and instruct them to find an apartment on their own on the private rental market – a discouragement and often unsuccessful exercise given skyrocketing rent inflation, lack of accessible apartments and widespread discrimination against landlords who illegally refuse to accept housing vouchers.

Although NYCHA does not make transfer data available, a recent report said that 34% of NYCHA tenants (about 120,000 to 187,000 people) live with a disability. As legal service providers, we see NYCHA and RAD tenants request transfers to units that can accommodate wheelchairs and other devices. Others request transfers to be closer to care providers, to leave an uninhabitable apartment that aggravates health problems, or to move to places that do not aggravate sensory or mental disabilities.

Despite the urgent need for both requests, we find that NYCHA tenants have much more flexibility and availability when it comes to getting the transfers they need than RAD tenants. Although to be clear, the transfer process is also a nightmare for NYCHA tenants who often have to wait years for a transfer to a safe and accessible apartment.

The daily news flash

The daily news flash

Days of the week

Find the five best stories of the day every afternoon of the week.

The impact of NYCHA’s discriminatory RAD transfer policy is devastating, endangering the lives of tenants and robbing them of their safety and dignity. Our organization represents a client in an RAD building who has multiple motor disabilities that make it difficult to navigate the one bedroom apartment shared with another disabled sibling. The unit is so small that they have to sleep in the living room and cannot fit living room furniture apart from their bed. They are also unable to perform the physiotherapy exercises they need to maintain their mobility and have difficulty traveling for doctor’s appointments in another borough.

Another of our clients in an RAD building developed mental health issues after a violent assault and was trapped in an unsafe apartment, which exacerbated his disability because he feared another attack and was forced to relive his assault and trauma daily. NYCHA’s transfer policy made it difficult for them to sleep, learn, concentrate, or get in and out of their building without triggering their disability and experiencing further trauma.

Not only is this policy unnecessary and impermissible, it arguably violates federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and require public entities like NYCHA to positively accommodate people with disabilities. ‘a tenant. It may also violate the law creating the RAD program, which requires RAD tenants to retain the same rights they had as public housing tenants.

If NYCHA truly cared about tenants with disabilities and other vulnerable tenants, this would allow RAD tenants to transfer NYCHA’s entire portfolio – whether public or RAD units – to the five boroughs. NYCHA already runs a complicated transfer policy and waiting list in its public housing program, which means it could easily run a similar policy in RAD buildings. NYCHA also has a lot of control and oversight in RAD conversions and would have the power to oversee transfers in its housing portfolio.

In addition, NYCHA must also ensure that vacant apartments are turned over quickly for reoccupancy and address issues of disrepair and malfunction in RAD and other NYCHA buildings that have long been the source of criticism, including lack of repairs. , shoddy repairs, unsafe or unsafe construction practices, inconsistent services at management offices, lack of transparency, confusion in the grievance process, and refusal to listen to tenant feedback. NYCHA should also consider interim relocations using the federal grant if there is no vacant apartment available that matches a tenant’s housing needs, in addition to addressing these other concerns.

Making the RAD program more accessible to people with disabilities and others is not only a legal obligation, but also a moral obligation that ensures NYC is truly a diverse, vibrant, and inclusive city for all.

Gyori is a member of Skadden and an attorney at Legal Services NYC.