Facing a massive backlog of repairs and a funding shortfall in the billions of dollars, the city's housing authority is proposing a bold new plan to raise revenue but is also hinting at some controversial privatization. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
New York City Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea’s plan to turn around the troubled agency is, on the surface, a simple one: Take land used for public housing and lease it to private developers who could build market-rate apartment buildings, plus ground-floor retail.
"Doing that can generate hundreds of millions of dollars, every penny of which we will reinvest in NYCHA to fix roofs, elevators and building facades," Rhea said.
Rhea told a gathering of civic and business leaders Monday the key is finding underutilized land and that no housing authority buildings would be demolished, with no residents displaced.
"In some cases, the land that we’re discussing today that’s under-developed, or where we don’t have residential buildings, may have parking on them. They may be green and open space. Some may just be walkways. Some may have some other places where NYCHA operational equipment is stored," Rhea noted.
Still, the plan hints at privatization, a controversial idea. City Council members, while generally welcoming of the plan, say residents must be involved.
"Tenants are going to have to have a say in this. They must feel comfortable that we are not selling NYCHA facilities," said City Councilman Domenic Recchia.
"This is not a plan to privatize public housing. We’re talking about long-term leases on currently vacant land that will create stable, predictable cash flow for NYCHA to rehabilitate our existing buildings," Rhea said.
As an added benefit, Rhea said the plan will create thousands of jobs, and reintegrate public housing into the street grid. Plus any new market-rate apartments would be coupled with some affordable housing.
The Housing Authority will finalize a list of potential sites, primarily in Manhattan, by early 2013.
City housing officials plan to select developers around the middle of next year, with the hope that money could begin flowing to the housing authority by the end of 2013, and that construction begin in early 2014.