The New York City Housing Authority—the nation’s largest public housing system—entered into an agreement that public officials hope will address major health and safety concerns for its 400,000 residents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced Thursday.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s office, which sued the New York City-administered authority in June 2018, announced the agreement between prosecutors, city officials, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that fell short of a potential federal takeover of NYCHA.
Instead, the housing authority will be under strict deadlines and federal oversight to improve substandard living conditions for residents while remaining under city control.
“NYCHA’s failure to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing is simply unacceptable, and illegal,” Berman said in a statement. “Children must be protected from toxic lead paint, apartments must be free of mold and pest infestations, and developments must provide adequate heat in winter and elevator service. This Office has not wavered from its commitment to better living conditions for NYCHA residents.”
Under the agreement, a federal monitor, jointly picked by HUD and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, will oversee a host of conditions now placed on the housing authority, effectively immediately, to address lead paint hazards, mold growth, pest infestations, and inadequate heating and elevator service.
For example, NYCHA now has 30 days to inspect housing units where young children are believed to reside or spend substantial time in to address any lead paint. Ultimately, lead paint will be required to be addressed throughout all NYCHA housing.
New York City will be required to follow-through on a previous commitment to provide an additional $1 billion in capital funds to the housing authority over the next four years, and an additional $200 million each subsequent year for the duration of the agreement.
No additional funding from federal sources, including HUD, appear to be part of the agreement.
Additionally, the plan calls for an overhaul of the housing authority’s organizational, management, and workforce structure. The city will be required to select a new chief executive officer from a list jointly compiled by HUD, the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, and the city.
At a press conference with HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the agreement “a strong path forward and a very tangible path forward.”
“Secretary Carson and I inherited a situation that was many decades in the making, and I wish we didn’t. I wish that over those decades there had been consistent focus and support for public housing at all levels of government, but there was not,” the mayor said. “We inherited a very troubled situation. But we resolved from the beginning to do something different and to find a way to cooperate in the interest of the people.”