There could be lots to love in the housing authority's new five-year-plan, but leafing through undefined programs described with ambiguous terminology, you might not know it. And one program that is spelled out in the document, an income-mixing plan, has quickly drawn the ire of public housing residents and advocates.
Under orders from the 1998 federal housing reform law, the New York City Housing Authority drew up “one-year” and “five-year” plans, and two weeks ago it released the documents in a foot-thick pile of papers. So far, one of the most controversial elements is NYCHA's new income-mixing plan, where working families are lured into high-poverty buildings with the offer of an extra bedroom.
The program is in response to the federal housing law, which calls for better distribution of higher- and low-income families in developments. But while the Housing Authority's plan puts higher-income families into the lowest income buildings, it doesn't offer any plan to put the poorest tenants into the better buildings. NYCHA justifies the decision by pointing out that even its higher-income developments have a high-poverty rate. Advocates counter that the plan is unfair to extremely poor families who have languished on the public housing waiting list for years.
The report also floats ideas like leasing privately-owned units, developing a “comprehensive citywide self-sufficiency program,” starting “joint ventures and partnerships” with the private sector and NYCHA residents, and “leveraging private financial resources” for poor residents–without much further description. “There are a lot of open questions,” said Vic Bach, director of housing policy research at the Community Service Society. “[The document] has a plain vanilla wrapper but has some important issues that need to be addressed.”
Other NYCHA shifts include:
Changing the domestic violence preference to include families where the batterer is not a relative.
Giving disabled people in non-elevator buildings priority for transfers.
Increasing closed-circuit television surveillance.
The agency is currently accepting public comments on the document (see NYCHA's website at www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/nycha/html/phaps.html) and has a public hearing scheduled for September 29.