NYCHA is New York City’s largest provider of affordable housing and the biggest public housing authority in the nation. It is more than a collection of 2,600 buildings and 400 community centers—it is home to more than 400,000 public housing residents and over 200,000 New Yorkers who live in Section 8 properties. NYCHA is their door to opportunity and better lives.
Mayor de Blasio and NYCHA’s new administration knows as well as NYCHA residents the challenges to this mission. The Authority contends with deteriorating buildings that are 50 or 60 years old. Steady federal disinvestment since 2001 has resulted in a staggering $1 billion deficit and significant capital needs, from boilers to rooftops. The mayor has devoted unprecedented attention and historic support to NYCHA. This support includes a $210 million plan to make NYCHA neighborhoods safer. It also includes forgiveness of NYCHA’s payments to the police resulting in $70 million dollars that NYCHA used to improve repair times and reduce open work orders by 77 percent since last year.
At the conclusion of 2014, we also trained 350 supervisors on how to better remediate mold; preserved nearly 900 project-based Section 8 apartments through an innovative public/private partnership; completed vital capital work at dozens of buildings; removed 27,000 feet of sidewalk sheds; connected over 2,000 residents to good jobs; and launched “NYCHA Metrics” on our website to provide the public with more data on our successes and areas we need to improve.
Mayor de Blasio tasked me with resetting relationships with all those invested in NYCHA’s survival. Since I was appointed in March, I have visited more than 70 developments to discuss with residents and employees how NYCHA can become a better landlord, our core function. With their input, we’ve identified ways to create financial stability, rehabilitate and make better use of properties, rebuild for resiliency, and develop sustainable models for resident services and engagement. This year, we will build upon these achievements by implementing a new property management pilot at certain developments, launching a 501(c)(3) to create better services for residents, and releasing NextGeneration NYCHA, our ten-year strategic investment plan to sustain and improve public housing for the future, by creating safe, clean, and connected communities.
We know we have a lot of work to do. And the status quo cannot continue. Through collaboration with all of our stakeholders to forge creative solutions to our problems, we will build a next-generation housing authority, one that can continue providing opportunity to the coming generations.
Shola Olatoye is the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Housing Authority