The Real Deal New York

Public housing sits vacant as city gears funds to existing units

December 16, 2013 03:20PM

Amid the city’s shortage of affordable housing, hundreds of public housing units are sitting vacant for years at a time.

New York City Housing Authority officials told the New York Times that they have reduced the number of apartments that are vacant and awaiting renovation to less than 800 from several thousand, and 2,300 more are unoccupied because of regular turnover. But last year, auditors found 319 units were empty for over seven years and in need of repairs like roof replacement — a number that was exacerbated when some units were flooded and damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

All in all, the city has lost roughly $1.4 million per year in rent because of the vacant units, auditors told the Times.

NYCHA’s internal auditors criticized the agency for lacking a coherent strategy to return unused apartments to homeseekers, but NYCHA faulted a lack of funds. For that reason, many available units hang in limbo, with the agency directing its funds to the apartments already in use.

“You really have to make choices,” Cecil House, the authority’s general manager, told the Times.

The use of funds to increase the amount of affordable housing will be a test for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, public housing advocates said, with many of the dated buildings having fallen into disrepair as federal funds become less plentiful. [NYT]Julie Strickland