Lynne Patton, the top bureaucrat at the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the New York region, said on Wednesday she plans to move into a NYCHA high-rise in Harlem to protest heat and hot water outages throughout New York City public housing. President Trump, who appointed Patton in 2017, has proposed eliminating all federal funding of capital repairs at public housing projects nationally, as they face a $40 billion backlog.
The news was first reported by PIX 11.
In a comment on Twitter, Patton wrote, “Basic human conditions are non-negotiable. @HUDgov HQ knows that I feel very strongly that if they don’t have them, neither should I.”
The 1,940-unit Grant Houses development at 123rd Street lost heat and hot water for more than 24 hours over the Thanksgiving holiday. News of frigid conditions at the complex, which holds more than 4,000 people, came as NYCHA reels from the fall out from its ongoing lead paint contamination scandal and its overall capital funding needs are estimated to total some $25 billion.
It was not immediately clear how Patton, who makes an annual government salary of $161,900, would qualify for an apartment at the Grant Houses or whether it would be provided to her by NYCHA.
In a statement, a representative for Patton told The Real Deal that “Patton would move in with a Grant Houses family already identified by Citywide Council of Presidents’ Danny Barber if HUD, SDNY, the City and State of New York do not come together to commit to a real plan, real resources, and real leadership here on the ground by Judge William Pauley’s deadline December 14.”
A representative for NYCHA declined to comment.
Earlier this month, Pauley rejected a settlement between the U.S. Attorney’s office and the City of New York that would have required the city to put up $1.2 billion in additional funding for NYCHA and to come under federal monitor. Pauley suggested that any agreement should give HUD primary responsibility for NYCHA’s future viability, according to the New York times.
In February, President Trump proposed an $8.8 billion cut to HUD’s annual budget, including the complete defunding of the Public Housing Capital Fund, which benefits NYCHA and other housing authorities. At the time, the White House justified the decision saying that affordable housing funding “should be a responsibility more fully shared with State and local governments.”
Congress has largely rejected Trump’s proposals, however. In August, the Senate passed an appropriations bill for 2019 with a HUD budget that totaled $12 billion higher than the White Houses’ original request, but this bill has not been reconciled with its equivalent measure in the House of Representatives. The HUD budget is currently operating under a continuing resolution through Dec. 7.
Trump’s HUD Secretary, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, has implied that public housing makes people too “comfortable” and earlier this year unveiled “self-sufficiency” hubs in 15 states to help people get off of federal housing assistance.