NEWS AND ISSUES


Testimony By New York State Senator Duane Before The New York City Housing Authority Public Hearing On The Draft 2010 Annual Plan


June 23, 2009

My name is Thomas K. Duane and I represent New York State's 29th Senate District, in which Amsterdam Houses, Amsterdam Addition, 344 East 28th Street, Fulton Houses, Chelsea-Elliot, Chelsea Addition, and Harbor View Terrace are located. As the State Senator representing the residents of these New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments as well as residents of Section 8 Leased Housing and other NYCHA units, I am particularly concerned about New York City's public housing stock and the well-being of its residents. Thank you for this opportunity to submit testimony on NYCHAfs Draft Annual Plan for Fiscal Year 2010 ("Draft Annual Plan").

I understand that NYCHA faces a $137.1 million budget shortfall this year due to increasing costs and the failure of all levels of government to provide adequate funding. It is particularly outrageous that New York City continues to extract nearly $100 million a year from NYCHA in fees for police services and payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) from which other nonprofit housing providers are generally exempted. While I appreciate the difficulty of NYCHAfs task to remain true to its mandate of increasing public housing and maintaining services in times of financial hardship, I nonetheless continue to object to several of NYCHAfs deficit reduction proposals, including its across-the-board rent increases and, in particular, its ongoing Section 8 Voluntary Transition Plan. As I have noted in prior years, by leveraging Section 8 vouchers for existing residents of State- and City-owned public housing to offset the dearth of operating subsidies, this policy cannibalizes the Cityfs affordable housing stock and makes those on the Section 8 and NYCHA waiting lists bear the burden.

I also share the concerns of the Community Service Society, Legal Aid Society, the Citywide Council of Presidents and many other public housing resident advocacy organizations that the Draft Annual Plan does not go far enough to aid NYCHA residents in light of the Cityfs deepening economic crisis. For example, as the unemployment and underemployment rates surge, the recent revision of the Rent Hardship Policy is woefully inadequate. Previously, residents had to demonstrate three consecutive months of decreased income before they could be eligible to apply for a rent reduction. Unfortunately, residents whose incomes have declined are especially susceptible to rent delinquency. As you know, residents who are unable to pay their full rent by the fifth of the month for any three months in a twelve month period qualify as Chronic Rent Delinquents (CRD) and thus are subject to eviction. While the reduction of the gwaiting periodh to two months in the current Draft Annual Plan is an improvement, this policy continues to leave many residents who have suffered loss of income on the brink of CRD status for the remainder of the statutory twelve month period.

Residents should not have to risk eviction in order to meet the requirements of a rent reduction. Furthermore, the fundamental problem that this revision fails to address is NYCHAfs tendency to expedite CRD termination proceedings – which sometimes target residents whose social security or public assistance arrive late – while simultaneously delaying Rent Hardship approvals. NYCHA policies should instead strive to maximize the provision of stable, affordable housing, especially as we struggle to emerge from this recession.

The Draft Annual Plan also fails to go far enough to address the employment and training needs of NYCHA residents. It highlights the $423 million capital allocation NYCHA will receive from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and estimates that the 70 capital projects it funds will create or preserve 3,255 jobs. The Draft Annual Plan later cites Section 3 of the 1968 Housing and Urban Development Act, gwhose purpose is to ensure that employment and other economic opportunities generated by Federal assistance to public housing authorities shall, to the greatest extent feasible and with best faith efforts, be directed to public housing residents and other low and very low-income persons.h Despite this influx of ARRA funds, the Draft Annual Plan does not detail efforts to create employment opportunities for the thousands of residents who are unemployed and actively seeking work. NYCHA should not only strive to ensure maximum employment on these projects for qualified NYCHA residents but should also expand job training opportunities and access to the Resident Employment Program, which offer residents work in the construction trades. Doing so would in turn increase newly-employed residentsf rent payments and therefore increase NYCHAfs revenue stream.

I also wish to take this opportunity to address two recent NYCHA policy changes that are not included in the Draft Annual Plan but merit reconsideration. According to the Community Service Society and the Legal Aid Society, NYCHA amended its Standards of Admission in 2007 to prohibit evicted gremaining family members claimantsh from applying for NYCHA housing as individuals for five years. This major change in policy, which has adversely affected a number of my constituents, was unpublicized and made without consulting residents and other stakeholders. Likewise, NYCHAfs recently revised Pet Policy was drafted and implemented without adequate resident input, and has thus understandably been met with much outrage and protest. I am confident that discussions within the NYCHA community would have yielded more dynamic and effective revisions to both the Standards of Admission and the Pet Policy.

As NYCHA finalizes its plan for Fiscal Year 2010 and beyond, I must emphasize the need for it to utilize the tremendous resources it has in its tenant associations, the Resident Advisory Board, and the Citywide Council of Presidents, and to work together with its surrounding communities. This collaboration could prove particularly helpful in addressing such controversial policies as the ones described above as well as the proposed sale and development of empty plots of land.

Certainly, any effort to sell NYCHAfs millions of square feet of unused development rights throughout the City – a strategy that could prove to be the most effective solution to the authorityfs fiscal challenges – should, as Manhattan Borough President Stringer has said, be subject to a comprehensive planning and public review process, to ensure that the interests of the authority, NYCHA residents, their neighbors and the community at large are adequately represented. At the very least, NYCHA residents should be guaranteed the right of first refusal on dispossessed land. Ultimately, however, we must work together to close the budget gap by resuming annual City and State subsidies and eliminating NYCHAfs exorbitant and unparalleled payments to the City, rather than by implementing unsustainable stop-gap measures.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments. I look forward to continuing to work with NYCHA to preserve safe, affordable and decent public housing for New Yorkfs most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.


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