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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It's a fee hike

Pay more, working poor

New York Wants Poor to Help Pay in Housing Crisis

The New York City Housing Authority, landlord to more than 400,000 poor New Yorkers, is facing a budget shortfall of $168 million and has proposed narrowing the gap by charging residents new fees and increasing old ones for everything from owning a dishwasher to getting a toilet unclogged.

The authority says its operating deficit stems from enormous increases in energy and pension costs while its federal financing for public housing has been cut. Since 2001, the agency says, it has spent $357 million from its reserves to close repeated budget gaps; this year, for the first time, it no longer has enough reserves to cover the shortfall.

So it has proposed charging tenants $5.75 a month to run a washing machine, $5 a month to operate a dishwasher, $10 a month for a separate freezer. Parking fees will rise to $75 from $5 a year on April 1.

The authority plans to raise existing fees for dozens of services, like fixing damage to apartments beyond normal wear and tear, and to charge, for the first time, for things like rescuing lost keys from elevator pits after hours. The authority would like to put the fee changes other than for parking into effect around May 1.

The Housing Authority board has asked its senior staff to come up with a plan to balance the budget while preserving basic services, minimizing the impact on the most vulnerable residents and finding what the board called "creative ways to streamline service delivery." The authority has also appealed to federal and city officials for help.

"The chickens are coming home to roost," said Representative Jerrold L. Nadler of Manhattan, who added that the federal government was taking less responsibility for public housing. "The Housing Authority has, by one ingenious means or another, been holding it together with spit and baling wire. This could be really devastating."


The tenant fees are expected to generate about $1.5 million in revenue. The authority says most of the "utility surcharges" on appliances have long been in place and have not risen in more than a decade.

Tenants say few fees were ever imposed. "Only in extreme cases where a door was bullet riddled or somebody kicked the front entrance door and it was not based on wear and tear," said Gerri Lamb, the citywide chairwoman of the Resident Council of Presidents, a tenant group. "And certainly not this amount of money. I've been in public housing over 35 years and there's never been a set listing of charges that was given to the residents."

Saul Ramirez, executive director of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, traced the budget shortfall to "a steady disinvestment" in public housing at the federal level. "Obviously," he said, "there has been a decline that has gotten to a critical point in the area of operations."

New York City's Housing is unique in that it isn't a warehouse for the poor. Most fo the tenants are employed. There is a 100,000 person waiting list to get into housing as well,

These fee changes are among the first that have hit housing in decades and the fees are for things which weren't charged before, This comes as a shock, but the reality is that NYC Housing are hardly bastions of desperate poverty and the rents are much lower than market rates in most neighborhoods. There will be a LOT of screaming about this, but there is a shortfall.

New Yorkers think rents should be rolled back, forget increased. So you really have to weigh all housing discussions with some perspective. Which is to say, you really have to listen to the issue before making a judgment.

posted by Steve @ 11:56:00 PM

11:56:00 PM

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