According to NY1, the agency recently received a letter from the Department of Housing and Urban Development announcing the cuts. A HUD spokesperson said the cuts will “directly impact more than half a million New Yorkers and will mean slower repairs, less maintenance and fewer services.” Because a final budget has not been passed, the HUD spokesperson says that figure is still an estimate.
The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD) released a blistering statement yesterday about the potential cuts that linked them to President Donald Trump. The ANHD is an umbrella organization of nonprofit housing and economic development groups in New York City.
“This could be the first of far more severe cuts to come, as New York City’s budget and the needs of our most vulnerable residents are targeted,” the release states. “Public Housing is the backbone of New York City’s affordable housing stock, ensuring stable homes for over 400,000 New Yorkers — the workers, students, parents and seniors that make our city run. As New York City continues to struggle with homelessness, as market rates continue to soar out of reach for most New Yorkers, as we continue to lose our affordable privately-owned housing at alarming rates, public housing is a model we need to run towards, not away from.”
Ben Carson was confirmed as the new Secretary of HUD last week, and Trump has said the appointment will be key in his efforts to “revitalize” cities (often using the weighted and racially fraught term “inner cities”). As the Baltimore Sun wrote last week, he “has yet to offer a specific plan to address joblessness, struggling schools and crime” that confront many of the cities he seems to be referencing.
The $35 million figure may be particularly harsh, but it highlights problems with the NYCHA funding structure that aren’t new. As Jake Blumgart wrote for Next City in 2014, “NYCHA receives more than half of its funding from the feds. Unfortunately, D.C. isn’t a reliable source of funds. In the Philadelphia area, authorities have had to cut their staff by between 15 and 50 percent in recent years.”
To contrast, look at Vienna, he added. “The city’s post-WWI Socialist government built a huge system of public housing that became the norm. Today €400 million is provided annually by the national government for its maintenance, supplemented by roughly €150 million in local supports. … The city owns 25 percent of the housing stock — much of it built in the 1920s and 1930s — and is heavily involved in another 20-plus percent of the stock.”
In other words, NYCHA’s reliance on federal funds may make its services possible, but it also makes the agency particularly vulnerable to austerity-minded politicians.
The potential cuts come at a time when NYCHA has been attempting to modernize its housing stock — and use its infrastructure to combat climate change. In January, it released a new set of design guidelines, and in February, it announced that it would attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings by 30 percent over the next 10 years.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.