NYCHA woes jeopardizes repair agreement


It’s not just the MTA struggling to recover from the pandemic’s impact: The New York City Housing Authority may have taken an even harder hit — and it was in a deeper hole to start with.

Just as the transit agency suffered huge losses from lower ridership, NYCHA lost a ton of rental income, thanks to the rent moratorium.

Rents fund a full third of the agency’s operating budget, but arrears have reached a staggering $443 million — up from $100 million in March 2020. That recently forced top managers to warn their federal overseers that they’re unlikely to meet the repair deadlines set in a 2019 court-approved agreement.

Pre-pandemic, NYCHA faced a $40 billion hole for repairs and maintenance after years of neglect and mismanagement. New leadership was making big strides — but who can handle having 71,000 tenants in rent arrears? Supply-chain issues and raging inflation only add to the woes.

Even if NYCHA wanted to go there, evicting those tenants is no practical answer: The Housing Court system is already lumbering (and faces its own backlog after two years of lockdown). One possible answer is for the state, which has already done extensive relief for unpaid COVID rents, to make NYCHA whole here as well — with the obvious caveat that the bailed-out tenants make monthly rent payments going forward.

Federal monitor Bart Schwartz, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Attorney for the Southern District have acknowledged NYCHA’s progress on big-ticket items such as replacing and repairing heating plants. But regular repairs have fallen far behind.

Last month, city Comptroller Brad Lander reported that more half of NYCHA developments have doors either broken or jammed open; at the Marble Hill Houses in The Bronx, one building entrance was missing a door entirely.

In October 2021, The Post’s Nolan Hicks and Oumou Fofana found that the open repair backlog at Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx surpassed 11,000, while NYCHA’s citywide maintenance backlog had ballooned to nearly 584,000 requests that month — up from 461,000 in October 2020.

The pandemic had sidelined many repair personnel, tenants were told. In his quarterly report, Schwartz ID’d the Housing Authority’s Operations Division as problematic.

But that crisis shouldn’t interrupt the larger reforms, including moving complexes to private management (along with major repairs) under the feds’ Rental Assistance Demonstration program and NYCHA’s own Permanent Affordability Commitment Together initiative.

Sale or rental of underused NYCHA properties can help plug the hole, on top of possible state funds. And the tag team of Senate and House Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries should prioritize more emergency assistance.

No one benefits from letting the city’s public-housing stock fall apart.


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