New York’s Public Housing Development Dreams at a Crossroads

NYCHA’s fiscal predicament has been headline news for more than two years now. While management failures clearly contributed to the scandals around lead paint, mold, heat and hot water, a growing gap between resources and needs is the soil in which those scandals grew. With buildings dating to the 1930s, NYCHA faces increasing capital needs. In the early 2000s, support from the city, state and federal government declined rapidly. City Hall and Albany have been much more generous recently, but the delayed maintenance has only grown more expensive to address. This has led to doomsday assessments of the prospects for public housing’s future in the city. As the Regional Plan Association wrote last winter:

As is true of all buildings, NYCHA’s buildings need proper maintenance or they eventually become not just unsafe and unhealthy places to live, but legally uninhabitable. A building left to deteriorate long enough will eventually be in imminent danger of failure or collapse, rendering it unfit for human occupancy. While a timeframe for when this might happen for any specific building is unknown, what is certain is that if NYCHA continues on the current trajectory of endlessly deferred maintenance and compounding deterioration there will eventually be the need to evacuate significant portions of our public housing.

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