NEW YORK -- Rent relief is what New York City Housing Authority residents say they need now after being denied it during the pandemic shutdown.
Retired government translator Maria Pacheco lives in NYCHA senior housing in East Harlem. She is 83 years old.
She started with NYCHA in 1964 and pays about $350 in monthly rent. She says egregiously slow repairs and a lack of funding convinced her to join a rent relief rally in Lower Manhattan.
"We need the money now," Pacheco said at the podium.
More funding could help some of the estimated 250,000 people on NYCHA waiting lists.
Housing advocates said there are tens of thousands of empty units.
"So why don't they build more buildings? That's the solution," Pacheco said.
"We need to restore the vacant unit readiness, which is a $31 million program that the mayor cut. NYCHA is sitting on 3,900 vacant units they say are too expensive to repair.," said City Councilmember Alexa Aviles, chair of the Public Housing Committee.
Participants at the rally told CBS2 the goal is to get people off the streets and out of city shelters and then to save for housing environments.
"How long will NYCHA be able to sustain hundreds of thousands of people not paying rent right? So we need a solution," Aviles said.
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To deal with unpaid rent that ballooned during the pandemic, she estimates NYCHA needs at least $500 million. The state pitched in less than half that amount and the city is being lobbied to make up the difference.
But there appears to be no timetable for a decision, city leaders said.
"Maria and hundreds of thousands of other NYCHA residents live, grew up in the city, love the city, love the community, love NYCHA. They're just fighting a hold on," Aviles said.
She said every level of government needs to step up to solve this crisis.
The city is expected to make a decision on funding prior to July 1.