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CVH Response to Mayor Adams’ Blueprint for Housing and Homelessness

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Contact: Cynthia Travieso, 347-268-0044, cynthia@cvhaction.org


June 16, 2022 (NEW YORK, NY) – As a member-led organization that has long fought for affordable, safe housing, it is encouraging that the Mayor has released a comprehensive plan that recognizes New York City Public Housing is a core part of the City’s housing plan, calls for increased pathways to homeownership, and breaks down long-standing silos between housing and homelessness agencies.


However, the Mayor’s Blueprint lacks sufficient detail and transparency. The Mayor must make specific commitments to investing the resources and political will needed to end homelessness and secure safe, quality, affordable housing for all New Yorkers. The Mayor’s Blueprint also fails to address the full need at NYCHA, still relying on private management through RAD/PACT, and has no mechanism for outside accountability for improvements to NYCHA management.


Last year, with our partners in the Right to a Roof campaign, Community Voices Heard called for an integrated housing plan to end homelessness and promote racial equity. We called for the next mayor to turn away from two decades of housing plans where a large unit count goal drove problematic policies. Instead, we urged the next administration to focus resources and policy tools on the needs and priorities of those most affected by New York’s affordability and homelessness crises. The Blueprint represents progress in this direction.


Specifically, the Mayor’s Blueprint rightly recognizes pathways to homeownership as a needed part of our City’s housing plan: “Homeownership is a critical tool for families to create generational wealth and economic opportunity.” This is key to addressing the legacy of discriminatory policies and lending practices that explicitly excluded communities of color from homeownership opportunities and overcoming the difficulty that New Yorkers of color continue to face in accessing homeownership opportunities.


Yet, the Mayor’s Plan lacks firm commitments to funding models that would allow tenants to organize, buy, and convert their buildings to low-income cooperatives or community land trusts when landlords decide to sell.


Neither does the Mayor’s Blueprint reflect sufficient investment and planning to stabilize the future of NYCHA nor to stabilize the lives of NYCHA residents living in unsafe conditions. NYCHA residents are a core part of the City’s health and local economies. According to the Regional Plan Association, NYCHA residents hold more than 137,000 jobs, including more than 30,000 in the Health Care sector alone. Residents spend more than $2 billion dollars a year, much of it supporting local businesses, and own hundreds of local businesses themselves. The abhorrent conditions of NYCHA buildings affect dozens of neighborhoods and the economy of our entire city.


The City’s 2023 Fiscal budget invests little beyond capital money already committed, and instead invests $1.2 billion dollars toward more privatization through the RAD/PACT program. CVH members call on Mayor Adams to stop the privatization of public housing and instead invest the necessary public dollars needed to sustain this important public housing stock.


There is also no explicit plan for the units that will not be part of the Preservation Trust or RAD/PACT. Currently, 62,000 units have been or will be converted to private management through the RAD/PACT program. Preservation Trust legislation passed by the State legislature authorizes 25,000 additional units to be converted to a public trust that will allow NYCHA to access capital funds for repairs. This leaves 85,000 NYCHA units that still need repairs, and no commitment to immediately improve the dire conditions in many of these developments. Residents who opt out of the Trust and RAD/PACT should not be punished–NYCHA and the City have a responsibility to make needed repairs and modernize all developments.


The Blueprint rightly calls for amplifying resident voices in decision-making. Critical to making that a reality is ensuring that NYCHA provides information in multiple formats, channels, and languages. Too often, resident leaders and community leaders are asked to shoulder the burden of deciphering documents, creating presentations, and getting information to neighbors about technical and complex problems. Giving residents decision-making power does not mean disclaiming responsibility for ensuring that the resources provided are adequate for the need. In the words of resident association leader and CVH member, Margareth Massac, “There’s no transparency. NYCHA never provides information that’s easy to understand. Residents have to struggle to understand the options on the table to make informed decisions.”


We agree that NYCHA must fundamentally change its day-to-day operations. For too long, our members have suffered disrespect and abuse from NYCHA management and staff, and waded through bureaucracy that makes it impossible to get simple things done; there has been no accountability for the mismanagement. The changes proposed need a mechanism for outside accountability or they will be hollow. Elected and government officials have continuously disclaimed responsibility for the deep problems at NYCHA. This has resulted in injustices and wrongdoing – like toxic lead paint and mold conditions – that were only fully uncovered and resolved in litigation. Outside accountability is key to ensuring that new investments and new initiatives are successful in addressing residents’ needs.


We also appreciate the Mayor’s Blueprint recognition of the critical issue of housing discrimination against people with convictions. As noted in the plan, housing providers too often deny homes to people with convictions. In fact, one survey covering 14 states, including New York, found that 79 percent of formerly incarcerated people and their families reported being denied housing due to a conviction. Housing discrimination against New Yorkers with convictions is a racial justice issue – 80% of New Yorkers with convictions are Black or Latinx. Therefore, we cannot end racial discrimination in housing without ending conviction record discrimination.


The Mayor’s Blueprint is a clear departure from the siloed planning of past administrations. It represents a comprehensive approach to increase and preserve affordable and supportive housing, reduce administrative hurdles, and fix unsafe housing conditions. However, we are concerned by the lack of measurable goals, and particularly the lack of commitment to ensuring that all housing opportunities are targeted to meet the needs of the lowest-income New Yorkers and those who are currently homeless.


We urge the Mayor to continue to work with people who are directly impacted by homelessness, housing insecurity, and unsafe conditions, while also creating accountability mechanisms for his own administration. This must include a range of metrics and goals to prevent displacement, create truly affordable housing, ensure access to housing for people after incarceration, address unhealthy and unsafe conditions, and ensure that all of our neighbors have safe and dignified housing.

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