April 10, 2019

Introduction: NYCHA’s Uncertain Future Shouldn’t Stifle Innovation

Banner image: The Promise of Public Housing in New York

By Enterprise New York

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is at a crossroads. The federal government has increased oversight and has appointed a monitor to oversee physical upgrades and organizational changes, but NYCHA leadership and funding remain uncertain. Regardless of how these changes progress, ensuring that the over 390,000 low-income New Yorkers who rely on NYCHA have safe homes and access to vital services is of the utmost priority.

NYCHA is the nation’s largest residential landlord, with properties spanning an area three times the size of Central Park. Currently, one in every 22 New Yorkers rely on NYCHA for housing, and over 180,000 more families are on the waiting list to get in. 

Despite public housing’s vital place in the fabric of the city, NYCHA has experienced significant federal budget cuts in recent decades, and the cost for necessary capital repairs has grown to a massive $32 billion. Investigations of NYCHA have revealed practices that had devastating impacts on resident health, safety and wellbeing, leading to management changes and the mandate for a federal monitor. 

These dire capital needs and infrastructure issues will take time to fix, in addition to billions of dollars in funding. In the meantime, NYCHA and its partners – including residents, philanthropic organizations, the design community, and community-based organizations (CBOs) – must continue to build on successful partnerships and innovate in order to better serve residents and the community. Now is the time to double down on those partnerships and build a strong foundation for NYCHA’s future while the agency is in flux.  

For example, through public-private partnerships, organizations are working with NYCHA and its residents on initiatives that improve leadership skills and connect residents with training and job opportunities. Collaboratively, they are improving the design of NYCHA campuses while fostering the next generation of leaders.

Partners from across the housing industry are also working together to help residents access economic opportunity and forge better connections between often-isolated public housing communities and their broader neighborhoods. As the federal, state, and city governments work together to improve NYCHA, we must continue to support and invest in these partnerships.  

Over the next several weeks, retrospectives and analyses from Enterprise and stakeholders across the housing spectrum will highlight the initiatives created and supported through such partnerships, the impact of their efforts, and recommendations for how to further this crucial work.

We will explore a range of topics including the role of philanthropy in supporting public housing communities, opportunities for further workforce training and resident hiring, engagement with resident leadership, the role of CBOs in supporting NYCHA residents, and strategies to improve physical and social connections within a public housing site. We hope this series will offer a glimpse into what's possible when NYCHA, residents, and partners come together to build better communities—and what’s at stake if this work is put on hold.

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