Most New Yorkers who live in public housing are distressed with their living conditions — and who can blame them?
The New York City Housing Authority was once one of the best such agencies in the nation. But its maintenance and safety record started going south a few years back as mismanagement and federal funding cuts took hold.
And now, just as it makes headway against a notorious backlog of repairs, the agency is looking at a $77-million deficit for this year and $18 billion in unfunded capital improvement needs.
Something has to give.
The authority is taking two steps backward for every step forward. As repairs speed up, its funding is shrinking while its buildings deteriorate faster from old age.
The good news is that management is back on track.
The authority’s repair backlog is shrinking. The list stood at an incredible 442,600 work orders in January 2013 — when the agency launched an intensive mission to resolve them. By June 30, the list was down to 81,200 jobs. That’s major progress.
Long wait times for Mr. Fix-It are dropping. In fiscal 2013 the lag time for a nonemergency repair averaged 42 days. A year later, that figure is 27 days. This is hardly a record to celebrate so far — but it is an improvement for anyone who lives in a housing authority building.
Unfortunately, better management isn’t enough to save an agency that is starved for hard cash. But Mayor Bill de Blasio is working on a rescue to be unveiled next year.
There’s no shortage of ideas. Maybe the city and state should step up with more money. That might be only fair. The feds alone didn’t squeeze the authority.
Or maybe the agency’s parking lots and parkland can be used for profit-making ventures that help sustain public housing. Or maybe its rescuers should listen to city Comptroller Scott Stringer and move surplus dollars from the Battery Park City Authority to housing authority coffers.
Today more than 400,000 people live in housing authority units — while 250,000 households are on a waiting list for an apartment. They deserve a future.