The New York City Housing Authority is constantly in the news. New Yorkers often disparage the agency, yet so many of us rely on NYCHA for homes. This is surely upsetting to those leading the agency. As soon as someone steps into a prominent position they are met with opposition from all sides. With that being the case, why would anyone strive to enact change when leading such an agency? Your every breath is criticized.
Therefore, I applaud anyone wanting to take on such a position. In order to put oneself through such heavy scrutiny, I believe he or she must truly have the tenants’ best interests at heart.
With nearly 10 percent of New York City’s population residing in NYCHA housing, we have to come together as a city and find a way to support a large portion of our residents who are the backbone of our city. Since traditional methods have not been working and have been met with backlash, we need to find innovative ways to support NYCHA.
I know the agencies at all levels (city, state, federal) are doing what they can with their own budget restrictions to put resources, money, time and human capital to solving this forever problem. But let’s be frank, it is incredibly difficult and extremely expensive to renovate and maintain these aging buildings with the vastly limited resources available.
The breakdown isn’t pretty. Out of the developments owned by the NYCHA:
•15 are more than 70 years old;
•64 are more than 60 years old;
•78 are more than 50 years old;
•96 are more than 40 years old; and,
•51 are more than 30 years old.
Yes, again, various agencies are working together to correct this aging portfolio and they have done great work thus far in privatizing some of the housing units. Yet, there is still major work to be done.
I firmly believe that there is a way to overcome the current climate of finger pointing by, instead, highlighting the many victories the organization has so far achieved. That is not to say there isn’t room for improvement, because there certainly is. Yet, we need to come together collectively as residents of the city and present constructive ideas in a positive way to help NYCHA, and our fellow neighbors.
One such idea would be the implementation of a “tourist tax” for NYCHA aimed at those who are visiting and staying in New York City. As I recently discovered when I had stay at a hotel during a home repair, the city already charges a Hotel Room Occupancy Tax of 5.85 percent. So why not add a NYCHA Tax as well? We also can’t discount Airbnb. With hotel room rates as high as they are, maybe implementing a tax benefitting NYCHA on Airbnb hosts could help even the playing field a little between hotels and Airbnb.
In the same vein, during a recent trip to a wildlife preserve, I was required to pay an entrance fee, which was donated to an organization that helped local conservation efforts. The fee was nominal and I didn’t mind paying it as I was happy to be a part of keeping the land preserved for future generations.
Taking those two concepts into account, I think that New York City could implement some sort of “tourist tax” for NYCHA. It would be a small enough amount that it would not be burdensome to those visiting, yet tourists could feel that they are contributing to beautifying the city. I cannot imagine a tourist would be upset with a new tax, as $1 is easy to muster. Heck, even $2 is easy to swallow when you consider the amazing experiences that New York City affords tourists.
In any given year, close to 61.8 million tourists come through New York City. Imagine if there was a charge of just $1 or $2 per night on their stays. We would already be ahead of where we are today with this tax. Whether a tourist stays for a night, a weekend or a week, the money would add up quickly. Let’s just say each tourist only stays two nights in one hotel room when they come to visit, this would equate to $123.6 million a year. Although I know that wouldn’t generate nearly enough revenue compared to the sky high $32 billion NYCHA currently needs for repairs, it is a start. More importantly, like many of the families depending on NYCHA will tell you, anything helps.
NYCHA needs an influx of money. One possible revenue stream should be from the creation of this NYCHA “tourist tax.” The backbone of NYC, NYCHA workers and families, deserve better.
Heidi R. Burkhart, Founder and President of Dane Real Estate, is a 14-year veteran of the real estate industry and has facilitated closings in excess of 11,500 affordable housing units and over $1.6 billion in transactions.