De Blasio’s Plan for Public Housing Includes Private Leases

NEW YORK (AP) -

A plan to tackle “the worst financial crisis” in the history of the New York City Housing Authority includes leasing unused land in housing complexes for private residential development, a proposal that has caused controversy in the past, as well as other steps like modernizing rent collection, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

“I wish I did not have to say that to my fellow New Yorkers, but this is literally the worst financial crisis that NYCHA has ever encountered” since its 1934 founding, de Blasio said at a news conference. If the city doesn’t act fast to fix it, the housing authority could face the prospect of going into federal receivership, as some similar agencies elsewhere have done, he said.

“That is not something we will allow to happen here,” he said. “We will make the changes and we will make them swiftly and aggressively.”

The city has grappled for years with its aging, deteriorating public housing, which houses over 400,000 people — more than the entire population of New Orleans — in more than 2,600 buildings around the city.

As federal and other governmental support for public housing dwindled over the years, NYCHA came to face $17 billion in needed repairs and improvements, while running tens of millions of dollars in the red each year. Residents have contended with leaky roofs, mold, broken elevators, spotty heating, lagging security and long waits for basic repairs.

In one of the potentially stickiest aspects of the plan announced Tuesday, developers would be allowed to build new apartment buildings on parking lots, trash areas and other open spots in NYCHA complexes. That would include about 10,000 apartments in buildings that will be entirely affordable housing, and about 3,500 more rent-regulated apartments — these for families making about $46,000 a year or less — in buildings that will be half affordable and half market-rate, de Blasio said. The city plans to start announcing the locations in August.