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Comments by YACCS
Friday, April 21, 2006

You think the rent control hearings were bad?

I don't want to live in a box

27% of Public Housing Tenants Face More Rent Under City Plan

Published: April 21, 2006

The New York City Housing Authority announced yesterday that it wants to raise the rents paid by tens of thousands of its better-off tenants. The move, the biggest change in housing authority rents since 1989, is intended to help close a budget gap that has widened as costs have shot up and federal financing has not, officials said.

The proposed rent increases, some as high as several hundred dollars a month over the next two years, would affect nearly 47,000 households with annual incomes ranging from $19,800 to as high as $100,000. They make up 27 percent of all authority households. The remaining 128,000 poorer households, whose rent is fixed at one third of their income, would be unaffected.

The housing authority's chairman, Tino Hernandez, said yesterday that the agency "is at a defining moment in its history."

If the authority does not solve the problem of its recurring deficits, Mr. Hernandez and other administrators said, it will exhaust its depleted reserves in less than two years.

The authority, the largest in the country with more than 400,000 tenants, last fixed rent ceilings, beyond which no tenant's rent could climb, in 1989. The aim of those "ceiling rents" was to encourage upwardly mobile families to remain in public housing, cultivating a socioeconomic mix that some say has been crucial to the authority's success.

Under the new proposal, a family with a household income of about $40,000 living in a two-bedroom apartment would see its monthly rent increase to $546 from $495 in two years.

The proposed change, which would be phased in starting in September and requires approval of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees all local housing authorities, comes on the heels of the New York authority's decision to impose increased tenant fees for everything from owning a washing machine and a dishwasher to getting a broken door fixed or a key fished out of an elevator shaft.

Mr. Hernandez announced several other steps being taken in what he called the authority's "seven-point plan to preserve public housing." Those steps include an offer from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration of $100 million to help the authority pay its bills while it continues to look for new ways to raise revenue and cut costs.

The authority also intends to ask for approval to use federal Section 8 housing money to subsidize 8,400 of 21,000 authority-run units that were built by the city and state in the 1950's and 1960's. Because those units no longer receive any state or city subsidy, they are said to account for nearly half of the authority's $168 million operating deficit.

A letter from Mr. Hernandez announcing the proposals was to be distributed to every household yesterday. The authority is planning to hold five town hall meetings next month, one in each borough, and a public hearing in early June.

Victor Bach, a senior housing policy analyst for the Community Service Society, a nonprofit group that works against poverty, said in an interview: "There is clearly a reason to increase the ceiling rents since they haven't been increased in 20 years, at a time when maintenance and operating costs have gone up. The question is whether they're being increased to reasonable levels, whether they will cause any undue hardship for tenants."

He added, "I think it's going to be an issue and a decision that's going to be a hard fight with tenants, who are very sensitive to the rent issue."

That's the understatement of the decade. A normal, 4 percent rent increase is fought over like a boxing match. Rent Stabliziation hearings nearly end in riots.

Nerw York City Housing is unique because it isn't a dumping ground for the poor, but is mostly home to the working class and retirees. But this kind of rent hike is going to be bitterly contested. The tenant's lobby is the second largest in New York State, and with this being an election year, I expect this issue to blow up into a really nasty fight.

Why? This is the last affordable housing in New York, the rents are half that of market rents in some areas. In exchange, projects bring stability to areas where private housing could not. Is some hike coming? Probably, but this is going to not go down easily. Simple fee hikes were bitterly contested. The problem for NYCHA is this is going to spread rumors that they want to disposses black and latino tenants for whites who can pay more. I don't think City Hall has really thought out the implications of what a rent hike of several hundred dollars would mean.

People will absolutely go batshit, guaranteed. There is no more sensitive issue in New York than real estate.

posted by Steve @ 10:39:00 AM

10:39:00 AM

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