‘We need to move the conversation forward’: Velázquez bill aims to bring $32 billion for NYCHA improvements

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez at a press conference at the Alfred E. Smith Houses on Wednesday announcing a bill that would deliver $32 billion to NYCHA (Photo: Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez/Twitter).

BY MARK HALLUM | Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez plans to introduce a “Hail Mary” bill that she says will pump $32 billion in NYCHA and $70 billion into public housing nationwide.

Announced on Wednesday at the Alfred E. Smith Houses on the Lower East Side, Velázquez said the bill would provide the capital funding needed to bring NYCHA complexes across the city into a state of good repair.

The capital funds would go directly toward the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in an amount which Velázquez says is adequate enough to update housing across the nation after consulting experts. Those funds would then be disseminated to housing agencies and authorities nationwide, including NYCHA.

“There is plenty of blame to go around,” Velázquez said. “Certainly, there needs to be further accountability at NYCHA. However, we also need to start with the simple premise that making repairs and maintaining these buildings requires resources. Imposing more deadlines and additional rules is all fine and good – but there must be a financial commitment accompanying that. Let’s keep in mind that – with the exception of the Recovery Act in 2009 – investment in HUD’s public housing capital fund has been relatively flat for more than a decade.”

Velázquez’s Public Housing Response Act looks to an earlier time in which the federal government invested better in providing quality living to low income Americans and that NYCHA residents in particular have no faith that current conditions will improve.

“This president certainly has not helped matters. In every single budget request submitted to Congress, this Administration has proposed zeroing out the Public Housing Capital Fund,” Velázquez said of President Trump. “Thankfully, Congress has repeatedly rejected those heartless cuts. However, that is not enough. We need to move the conversation forward. Rather than playing defense, we need to go on the offense — and start demanding Washington commit again to quality housing for every single American.”

In the form of a budget request for fiscal year 2020, the bill aims to reverse the decline that began with the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 which prohibited public housing agencies from using federal funds for capital improvements or developments.

The bill almost immediately looks back to the The United States Housing Act of 1937 in which charged HUD with providing quality housing that would be managed at the local level.

The constant quality of life and health issues in public housing is city wide.

In March, the federal government intervened in the ongoing situation within NYCHA facilities by appointing a federal monitor to the agency through HUD’s Lynne Patton.

A new report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer showed that the city had failed 12,000 children had elevated levels of lead in their blood from 2013 through October 2018. The report attributed the information to the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Velazquez explained that to pass a bill of this magnitude would be “an enormous legislative undertaking” but that the legislation would get the conversation going and set the wheels in motion.

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