Fully Fund Public Housing Without Privatization

According to a recent report by The City, the New York City Housing Authority repeatedly ignored warnings that poor ventilation in public housing would accelerate the spread of COVID-19. Instead, NYCHA waited until late spring 2020 to upgrade ventilation. At that point, 7,800 NYCHA residents had tested positive for COVID and at least 1,241 residents had died.  During the height of the pandemic, NYCHA neighborhoods saw a 30% higher rate of COVID hospitalizations than surrounding areas. 

NYCHA residents have long been fighting for better living conditions, drawing attention to rat and cockroach infestations, lack of water, and constantly broken elevators. Over 600,000 people—1 in 15 New Yorkers—are NYCHA residents. The waiting list to live in NYCHA is nearly 200,000 people, with another 150,000 on the Section 8 waiting list. NYCHA residents are working people or retired working people. In other words, these were the people that were deemed “essential workers” during the pandemic, holding us down with services such as teaching, healthcare, and emergency services. These same people were dying preventable deaths due to the systematic neglect of their own homes!

Even though all the resources exist to fully fund public housing without privatization, de Blasio and the rest of the political establishment see only one solution to the problems plaguing public housing: privatization. NYCHA’s current Chair Greg Russ was hired in 2019, specifically because he has a track record of privatizing public housing in other cities. There are three major forms of privatization that residents are actively mobilizing against: 

  • Infill – building private luxury developments on top of playgrounds, parking lots, and other important open spaces in NYCHA developments; 
  • sale of air rights; and 
  • RAD/PACT – turning Section 9 housing (true public housing) into Section 8 housing (subsidized housing under private management). 

Ocean’s Bay in Queens was the first NYCHA development to convert to RAD, and it now has the highest rate of evictions of any NYCHA development in NYC—more than twice as high as the second-highest development. Not only do these plans this jeopardize NYCHA residents’ housing, wellbeing, and the future affordability of their homes, but these privatization plans also barely makes a dent in NYCHA’s budget shortfall—proving that privatization is more about serving the interests of the real estate lobby than the best interests of NYCHA residents. 

The most recent NYCHA privatization plan that the capitalist politicians are trying to force on us from the top is the Blueprint for Change, which would transfer NYCHA properties to a Trust, modeled after the School Construction Authority, which would give NYCHA greater flexibility to seek private financing for units under the Trust. The Blueprint proposal didn’t pass in the most recent New York State legislative session, and politicians credited organizing by NYCHA residents and other activists with the decision not to pass the Blueprint this time. However, it remains a serious threat for the future.

Quality, humane housing conditions are a human right. We are the workers, we make this city run, and to not even be safe from disease in our own homes is not something we can just sit and put up with. By putting a tax on Wall Street, corporations, and the rich, and cutting the bloated budget of the NYPD, we will have more than enough to provide full public funding for public housing and to make all necessary repairs and upgrades. And, once we win the fight to repeal the federal Faircloth Amendment that prevents the construction of new public housing, we can construct new public housing and other social housing to meet the massive need for quality housing for all. 

Public housing is the last truly affordable housing left in New York City. The people of New York are too smart to be hoodwinked by false solutions that will only take away our right to housing! It’s past time to fully fund public housing and end all privatization of public housing and public land!