NYCHA Points to Progress on Maintenance Issues

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A view of the Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx.

Photo by: Jarrett Murphy

A view of the Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx.

The city's housing authority noted progress on Monday in addressing many of the maintenance issues highlighted by a report issued earlier in the day by Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Stringer's report was on housing conditions citywide—in NYCHA, rent-stabilized, private rental and owner-occupied units.

To identify trends across that broad marketplace, it relied on the Census Bureau's Housing and Vacancy Survey, which comes out only every three years. The latest HVS covered 2011.

What those indicators illustrated was the deterioration in NYCHA conditions during the 2005 to 2011 period. While that wasn't news to anyone, the comptroller's report did a nice job of highlighting the scope of the deterioration and the degree to which it diverged from the rest of the city's housing stock.

Of course, 2011 was a while ago. NYCHA—which began working through its maintenance backlog late in the Bloomberg administration—notes that while the authority still has a long to-do list, things aren't quite as dire as the 2011 numbers depict.

“This report, based on data from four years ago, echoes the calls the de Blasio administration has been addressing since day one,” the authority said in a statement.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, de Blasio stopped forcing NYCHA to pay for NYPD services. The authority also has in 2014 issued major contracts for roof repairs and brick work, gotten rid of some of those sidewalk sheds that had become a long-term part of the landscape at several developments, and reduced the waiting-time and backlog for common repairs, NYCHA says.

“This administration has provided more support for NYCHA than any other in decades, easing the authority’s financial constraints, streamlining repairs, advancing safety and resiliency upgrades and furthering vital efforts to preserve and maintain the affordable public housing that is home to half a million New Yorkers,” NYCHA's statement continues.

NYCHA's woes stem mainly from years and years of underfunding, on both the operating and capital sides, from the federal government. That creates fiscal pressures that no amount of good mayoral management can relieve.

Stringer's report could be read as a critique of how NYCHA's run, or a reminder of the deeper financial crisis it faces. On the latter point, the authority agrees: In recent budget testimony, NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye said the authority expected to get $2.3 billion from the feds–against $18 billion in outstanding capital needs.