Public housing

Human Rights Watch identifies risks for public housing tenants

Additionally, Cincinnati is outbidding private investors to buy homes, and the SF report shows vacancies.

Human Rights Watch identifies risks for public housing tenants

A report Human Rights Watch found that the federal government’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program disenfranchises New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) tenants. The RAD was enacted in 2012. It allows units to enter private management in order to receive external funding to address a backlog of repairs. Federal financial support for long-term repairs in public housing has declined 35% over the past 20 years, adjusted for inflation, the report said.

Six NYCHA developments signed on to RAD as of 2016. Two have seen an increase in evictions, including Ocean Bay apartments, as Signposted city limits in 2019. Human Rights Watch has drawn uncertain conclusions about the increase in evictions in RAD developments, as three of NYCHA’s housing estates entered the program just as the nearly two-year pandemic eviction moratorium years was settling. But the report points out that NYCHA tenants in RAD lose oversight from a federal monitor, that a tribunal appointed to the agency in 2018It also found that tenants suing NYCHA for repairs were referred to RAD’s private management.

The report has long-term implications for the future of public housing because the federal government has expanded RAD rather than increasing funding for major repairs. The program was initially funded to cover 60,000 units nationwide, but Congress expanded funding to cover 455,000 units, according to Human Rights Watch.

Cincinnati buys homes instead of private investors

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority will pay $14.5 million for 195 homes in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, according to The real deal. The agency has outbid a dozen investment firms, according to the outlet, and will lease the units at an affordable price and upgrade them before selling them to low- or middle-income tenants, depending on the the wall street journal. The purchase is an effort to preserve affordable homeownership; in Cincinnati, private investors bought single-family homes and rented them out, as many people cannot afford to buy outright. The city joins other jurisdictions, including Oakland and San Francisco, that have purchased properties in an effort to keep them affordable for low-income residents.

Report from San Francisco shows more than 40,000 vacant apartments

A new report reveals more than 40,000 vacant homes in San Francisco in 2019 and a 20% increase since 2015. According to the report, which was released by the office of City Supervisor Dean Preston, the rate of new vacant homes exceeds the production of new homes .

The report, which analyzes data from the American Community Survey, also shows that the city met its regional housing need assessment goals for market-to-market housing for the years 2015-2023, but it is 10,617 units short of meeting its affordable housing production targets.

The report provides evidence that producing new housing at or above market price alone will not solve the affordability crisis if there is no policy to ensure housing is rented out. He also highlights the importance of prioritizing more affordable units in San Francisco’s new housing production.

The report also suggests implementing vacancy taxes in an effort to both raise money for affordable housing and discourage ongoing vacancy, thereby freeing up more of the city’s housing stock.

The report will be controversial because of its source; Supervisor Dean Preston has been criticized for opposing the production of housing from mixed-income developments on the grounds that they do not provide sufficient affordability. A legend, by members of local YIMBY groups, “Dean Preston’s Housing Cemetery” said only 87 homes had been approved since he became supervisor, and that he blocked production of 8,587 homes, 22% of which were affordable. Preston, a former tenants’ rights advocate, argued for Proposal K, a wealth transmission tax that allows the city to develop or acquire 10,000 new affordable housing units.

Speaking over the phone about the report, Preston acknowledged that due to the way ACS collects data, it’s not clear how long some units have been vacant or if they’re slated for eventual putting on the market. But he said if a tax on vacant units were put in place, the Buildings Department would be able to analyze units being rehabilitated from units that are intentionally kept out of the market.

Roshan Abraham is Next City’s housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities Fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.