Here in REVITALIZATION, we’ve long-documented the national affordable housing crisis in America, and the crucial role new, well-located affordable housing plays in downtown and neighborhood revitalization efforts.
The best affordable and workforce housing projects are usually on infill or brownfield sites, or they adaptively reuse old buildings. But while new affordable housing is critically important, it’s also important to avoid losing existing affordable housing, which often happens when public housing is allowed to deteriorate to the point where it needs to be demolished.
State and federal agencies need to play a larger role in helping communities renovate and preserve existing affordable housing, and now one state has done exactly that.
NOTE: Before getting into the new legislation, I (Storm Cunningham) should mention, though, that there is local opposition among some residents. It’s being criticized on two counts: 1) paucity of resident engagement in the process, and 2) the likelihood that it will lead to privatization of public housing (the last thing New York City needs is more slumlords). Opponents say that the city and state should simply fully-fund the New York City Housing Agency (NYCHA) instead, so it can do the renovations.
On June 16, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed new legislation (S.9409-A/A.7805-D) establishing the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust, and paving the way for the overdue repair, rehabilitation, and modernization of 25,000 apartments under control of the New York City Housing Authority.
“Today is a major win for all New Yorkers who call NYCHA home,” Governor Hochul said. “This legislation will unlock additional federal funding and lead to billions of dollars in renovations — after decades of federal disinvestment — and provide for critical improvements for 25,000 apartments in NYCHA developments across the city. I thank Assembly Member Cymbrowitz and Senator Salazar for sponsoring this bill and commend NYCHA leaders for their advocacy. By partnering together, we have taken an important step to ensure residents have the safe, livable, and quality affordable housing they deserve.”
Governor Hochul signed the bills alongside New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, and State Senator Julia Salazar.
Assemblymember Cymbrowitz said, “After decades of federal funding failing to materialize, too many urgent repairs going unrealized and NYCHA residents having to live with the consequences, the NYCHA Trust represents the opportunity of a lifetime to remake public housing. Bringing the Trust legislation to fruition was a herculean effort that involved the collaborative work of a lot of people, including housing advocates, NYCHA, and city and state government, all of whom never lost sight of the goal or of the shared mission of improving the lives of NYCHA residents.”
Senator Salazar said, “Residents of the two dozen NYCHA developments in our Brooklyn district and public housing throughout New York City have been forced to wait decades for legislators to take serious action on urgently needed repairs to the aging NYCHA developments. Tenants have previously had no choice in that process. By creating a public housing preservation trust, this bill will allow NYCHA to secure the federal funding and additional financing needed to improve conditions in NYCHA developments without privatization. Furthermore, this marks the empowerment of NYCHA residents to collectively make decisions about their respective developments and manage their buildings. The legislation also crucially protects all collective bargaining rights for NYCHA’s unionized workforce and will create additional high-quality, union jobs. I thank Governor Hochul for signing this bill today as a critical step forward in an ongoing commitment to our city’s public housing residents.”
New York City Mayor Adams said, “For too long we have underinvested in NYCHA, leaving aging infrastructure and utilities unrepaired, but, with this law, we are ensuring that NYCHA residents will now have access to safe, high-quality, affordable homes they deserve. For too long promises were made and not kept — today we are delivering on those promises. I want to thank the NYCHA residents, Governor Hochul, our partners in labor and advocacy, and all our partners in Albany for fighting to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for New Yorkers.”
The new law will unlock the authority’s ability to invest billions of dollars in capital to stabilize its buildings by establishing the Trust as a public benefit corporation able to issue bonds and raise capital for comprehensive building renovations and improvements.
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “For years, the residents of NYCHA properties have been desperately calling for safer, healthier, and more modern apartments. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Governor Hochul, the Legislature, and City officials, the Housing Preservation Trust will pave the way for NYCHA to invest the resources needed to transform its buildings and provide New Yorkers with quality affordable housing.”
As a result, basic environmental health and safety issues, such as lead, mold, heating, elevators, pests, as well as other systems work, apartment rehabilitation, and grounds improvements, will be better funded and completed more quickly.
New York City Housing Authority Chair and CEO Greg Russ said, “This is a momentous day in the history of public housing in New York City and across the nation. Thank you Governor Kathy Hochul for signing the Public Housing Preservation Trust legislation into law. The Trust gives NYCHA the ability to raise billions of dollars in capital funds to be invested in its properties, and provides residents a true voice in the future of their homes. Governor Hochul — alongside NYCHA residents, bill sponsors Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz and State Senator Julia Salazar, the New York State Legislature, Mayor Eric Adams, community leaders and advocacy partners — has led the way with the vision and courage necessary to disrupt the status quo, end decades of disinvestment and for the first time, bring real and lasting solutions that will transform the quality of life of public housing residents in New York City.”
Under the plan, NYCHA – which oversees the nation’s largest public housing system – will now draw hundreds of millions of federal dollars in new support per year by utilizing federal Tenant Protection Vouchers that receive a higher per-unit subsidy than traditional Section 9 public housing. This additional subsidy will permit NYCHA to raise debt off the increase for vital capital improvements.
New York City Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz said, “This is an incredible moment for the residents of NYCHA and New York City as a whole. Through the Trust, NYCHA residents are the only people who will decide the future of their homes — they finally have choices and the power to drive the conversation on how their homes are preserved. The NYCHA Preservation Trust will allow us to ensure these homes exist long into the future while remaining permanently affordable for thousands of New Yorkers. Thank you to Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams, Senator Salazar, Assemblymember Cymbrowitz and, most importantly, the NYCHA residents who have advocated for themselves, their families, and their communities to preserve public housing in New York City.”
Importantly, the Trust will guarantee homes are kept permanently affordable while also preserving all current rights and protections for residents, including:
- Residents will pay only 30 percent of income towards rent;
- Residents will maintain all current succession rights;
- Apartments will continue to be restricted to low-income residents; and
- Apartment vacancies will continue to be filled using NYCHA waitlists.
In addition, residents will have the right to vote and decide whether to opt-in to the Trust.
Legal Aid Society Chief Attorney of the Civil Practice Adriene Holder said, “With the stroke of a pen, Governor Hochul has empowered our clients and public housing residents by providing them leverage in deciding their future under the NYC Public Housing Preservation Trust. At a critical time, with huge unmet capital needs in NYCHA’s public housing and no current prospect of additional Federal funding, this law will provide an opportunity for NYCHA to access funds to make repairs and for residents to actively choose if the Trust is the means by which their housing is preserved. We commend Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law, and thank bill sponsors Senator Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz for their leadership and advocacy.”
Residents will also play an active role in determining which vendors are chosen to complete renovation work at their developments.
Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary LaBarbera said, “The NYCHA Public Housing Preservation Trust will bring critical and long overdue investment to NYCHA residences, enhancing quality of life for countless hardworking New Yorkers through desperately-needed improved housing conditions and the creation of thousands of new middle-class careers with benefits. We applaud Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams for their support of this critical initiative that will grow our city’s middle class and help ensure that all NYCHA residents can live in dignity, safety, and comfort.”
This new bill-signing is a critical part of Governor Hochul’s sweeping plans to make housing more affordable, equitable, and stable.
Enterprise Community Partners Vice-President and New York Market Leader Baaba Halm said, “We join NYCHA, the City, and the State in celebrating the creation of the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust. The residents of NYCHA deserve to have safe, healthy, high-quality housing and a fundamental role in determining what that means in practice. The new financing that the Trust makes possible means that NYCHA can address its backlog of capital repairs and deliver much-needed improvements for its residents. We thank the State Legislature and Governor Hochul for enacting this critical legislation, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with NYCHA and its residents to foster vibrant public housing communities in New York City.”
In her State of the State address, Governor Hochul announced a $25 billion, five-year Housing Plan – later passed in the FY 2023 Enacted Budget – that will create or preserve 100,000 affordable homes in urban and rural areas across New York including 10,000 homes with supportive services.
Community Service Society President and CEO David R. Jones said, “The Preservation Trust is a win-win for NYCHA and for its residents. It’s a preservation strategy that will keep our public housing public, with richer federal funding that can potentially reach all developments and fully address NYCHA’s $40 billion capital backlog without special federal legislation. Most importantly, for the first time it empowers NYCHA residents to decide whether and how they want their communities restored to decent conditions.”
The governor also recently signed into law more flexible rules for converting underutilized hotel space into permanent housing.
Many public and private leaders lined up to express their support for the legislation:
Teamsters Local 237 and the General Executive Board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Vice-President at-Large Greg Floyd said, “New York City’s public housing was once considered a national showcase of civic responsibility that provided stability and dignity for countless families. But that was nearly 80 years ago, and throughout those years, without adequate funding and other resources, those same buildings came to symbolize urban decay and hopelessness for other generations of New Yorkers. Today, with the creation of the Trust and unique plans underway to address the problems of public housing, NYCHA is on the path to return to a place of pride for those who live and work there. I want to express our thanks to Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams, state legislators, and NYCHA Chair and CEO Greg Russ for their hard work and resolve to help ensure that public housing in New York City is not viewed as just old, and a relic of the past, but resilient and revitalized…built to last for generations to come.”
Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York Business Manager Michael Hellstrom said, “On behalf of the 17,000 hardworking members of the Mason Tenders District Council, thank you, Governor Hochul, for signing the NYCHA Preservation Trust bill into law today. This legislation is historic because it not only addresses long overdue repairs for public housing residents, it ensures those repairs will be performed by unionized construction workers. Including a project labor agreement and prevailing wage requirements in the bill makes it even more impactful for tenants because it ensures they’ll receive the highest quality repairs from a skilled and trained workforce. Thank you, Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Senator Julia Salazar, NYCHA, and Governor Kathy Hochul, for your leadership on this crucial housing and labor policy.”
Laborers Local 79 Business Manager Michael Prohaska said, “Local 79 is proud to join Governor Hochul for today’s historic NYCHA preservation trust bill signing. Not only will this legislation infuse billions of dollars into public housing for long overdue repairs, it will also create thousands of union, prevailing wage jobs for New York City residents in the process. Thank you, Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Senator Julia Salazar, NYCHA, and Governor Kathy Hochul, for your leadership on this vital issue and recognizing the importance of including labor standards in the policy.”
New York Housing Conference Executive Director Rachel Fee said, “The enactment of the Public Housing Preservation Trust sets NYCHA on a path for full revitalization, with the ability to now address long-overdue repairs for residents. The trust will bring comprehensive funding solutions that, in the long term, will benefit residents across the five boroughs and transform their lives for the better. We are encouraged by the new plans for resident decision-making and the collaborative approach adopted by the city and state to pass this important bill. We recognize that it will take hard work and time to implement this new model and we look forward to working with the city, advocates, and stakeholders to ensuring the trust is a success.”
“I applaud the establishment of the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust, which will make quality, affordable housing available at a time when more and more families struggle to access this basic necessity,” said Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado. “By modernizing existing apartments under the control of the New York City Housing Authority and providing needed repairs, we are signaling to housing insecure New Yorkers that they matter and that we will not allow them to live in subpar conditions any longer.”
Polo Grounds Tenants Associate President Serena Chandler said, “I have lived in the Polo Grounds for 25 years. Some have been here from what we call day one, these are not just rented apartments they are our forever homes. While things got pretty bad for a time, times are about to change. Under the public housing preservation trust, we will finally see the much-needed improvements, and repairs to the inside of our homes, and with the protections in place we can look forward to a public housing legacy which will once again bring pride, and reverence to our campuses across NYCHA for generations to come.”
Photo courtesy of the New York City Housing Authority.