Public housing

New entity NYCHA Trust will inject money to fix disgraceful conditions in public housing

In an ideal world, huge amounts of federal money would go directly to NYCHA to meet its capital needs. The State, which has regularly underfunded social housing, would considerably strengthen its commitment. But Albany isn’t allocating billions to NYCHA alone, and even a Democratic-controlled federal government won’t do enough to overhaul the city’s public housing authority, one of the last in America.

In the absence of significant federal investments, a public trust for NYCHA is the best interim solution.

Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul championed the idea of ​​a trust, first pitch in 2020.

Many on the left are wary of any scheme that could lead to the privatization of NYCHA. Some leftists in the housing movement were angry with State Senator Julia Salazar, for example, for advancing legislation with other Democrats. They are skeptical because the trust would move some NYCHA housing developments to another program that would tie federal grants under Section 8 to specific apartments. The utility company could then borrow against this revenue stream to pay for repairs.

NYCHA would retain ownership of buildings and maintain a cap on rent payments of no more than 30% of household income. The new company would be run by a nine-member board. Members would include NYCHA’s chief executive, its chief financial officer, a deputy mayor, four NYCHA residents, one member appointed by the chief executive of the housing authority, and one member appointed by the mayor to represent NYCHA employees.

Bond financing may be the only way, at this stage, to obtain much-needed funds for public housing. On its own, it does not represent the privatization that some fear. The Trust is a much better solution than the Demonstration of Rental Assistance, or RAD, which has already handed over a small portion of public housing to private management. A full-scale conversion of NYCHA to RAD would pave the way for the kind of privatization that many housing activists and social housing tenants fear, possibly raising rents in the future. In a sense, the public housing trust is a brake on the aggressive expansion of the RAD.

For the left, the social housing trust can be seen as a near victory. Such an idea gaining momentum with the leaders of Adams, Hochul and NYCHA proves that RAD is no longer the viable long-term alternative.

Public housing residents should remain skeptical and vigilant, as always, but there’s reason to believe that borrowing money to pay for repairs can quickly solve problems that have been mounting for decades.

The feds left NYCHA behind. It is now up to the city and the state to safeguard one of New York’s great democratic legacies.