Democrat lawmakers in particular have long pushed for massively increased federal aid for public housing across the country following a decades-long decline amid a perpetual funding crisis that’s left large mid-20th century urban housing complexes derelict and crumbling.
Nowhere has the crisis been felt more than (as expected) New York City, where most of the some 325 housing projects owned by New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) are dilapidated to the point of becoming uninhabitable, for years if not decades facing interminable problems like mold and rats, water leaks and damaged roots, as well as no heat, elevators going out, and lead paint hazards.
NYCHA’s problems managing the housing relied upon by some 400,000 or more residents has long been documented, but new fears that there’s no funding solution on the horizon – meaning urgent repairs are likely to be pushed off (drastically raising the cost of the fixes to an estimated annual increase of $1 billion a year), could soon lead to residents becoming homeless as buildings constructed between 1945-1970 are becoming uninhabitable while sitting largely unfixed.
Bloomberg in a new reports chronicles what it calls the “$40 Billion Housing Headache Facing New York’s Next Mayor” which begins with the following couple of anecdotes…
“At the Twin Parks complex for seniors in the Bronx, residents say they had little to no heat this winter.”
And in the case of Stuyvesant Gardens in Brooklyn, “rats have taken over a playground and are coming inside the building” – which is but the tip of the iceberg in terms of array of issues facing many of the housing complexes.
Among the most pressing problems which are on the brink of creating full-blown health crises for low-income residents remain mold and pest issues, heating issues, and badly needed lead-based paint abatement.
The funding crisis and controversial fallout is expected to be a central, possibly campaign-defining issue sifting the candidates in the Democrat and Republican primaries coming up next month. And out of the gate some of the most aggressive funding measures still represent but a drop in the bucket of what’s needed in the NYCHA housing-wide overhaul.
“The eight leading Democratic candidates for New York City mayor have pledged to increase city spending on public housing to at least $1.5 billion annually, a $900 million increase from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1,” Bloomberg writes.
“Rats as big as kittens”… headlines like the below have been running locally for years if not decades…
— 700 Strong (@strong_700) April 2, 2019
Yet the reality remains that this is “a fraction of the hole the city needs to fill, and many of the candidates leading at the polls are relatively vague on how they will raise extra money” – with the dividing line tending to be the degree to which the federal government is pressed for the bailout vs. various plans to get creative on local funding measures. Though of course plans in the latter arena which offers incentives for builders and contractors to keep repair costs (or building for new housing) down have been met with fierce resistance as it’s seen as a creeping move to privatize public housing.
“People want repairs, not privatization, and we should be able to make repairs without privatizing public housing,” NYC comptroller and current mayoral candidate Scott Stringer said.
“New York City could get more than $20 billion under Biden’s infrastructure plan” with a hoped-more “more to come,” he pointed out.