NYC Gets Funds to Fix Neglected Public Housing

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Good news for public housing in New York City -- after years of crippling budget deficits, the New York City Housing Authority is finally getting some cash to take care of its buildings.

No matter how you feel about public housing, there's no denying that New York City's public housing has gotten a raw deal for the last decade. Federal and state housing programs have consistently meted out to the Housing Authority a fraction of the cost to properly maintain its apartments.

At the same time, the cash-starved Housing Authority has been blamed for its inability to maintain its own buildings. In 2008, the Authority came come under fire for the condition of its elevators after 5-year-old Jacob Neuman fell to his death while trying to escape a stalled elevator at the Taylor-Wythe houses. In New York City alone, hundreds of buildings are more than 50 years old, and there are $6 billion in backlogged repairs.

The Authority is working to fix a big part of the problem, as 21 developments finally get access to federal operating dollars. These 21 projects were originally built decades ago under New York State and New York City's public housing programs, and the state and city once paid a big part of the rent for residents -- but that stopped years ago. To make up the difference, the Housing Authority had to raid its own operating budget, contributing heavily to the Authority's structural $137-million-a-year deficit.

The Authority's crippling budget deficit has also been alleviated by renewed support from Washington, including $423 million in stimulus funds. The stimulus money will be dedicated to much-needed capital projects and building maintenance, including energy efficiency work. For example, in March, the housing authority received approval to spend $108 million of the stimulus funds to fix up more than 20,000 public housing apartments.

"This one agreement will benefit roughly the same number of public housing units in New York City as there are in the whole of Chicago's public housing inventory," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

As long we have public housing apartments, said Donovan, it makes sense to maintain them. NYCHA is the biggest housing authority in the country, with more than 180,000 public housing apartments in 345 developments throughout New York City.
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