(RealShare New York comes to the Grand Hyatt, New York, NY, October 9.)
NEW YORK CITY-A plan to boost the New York City Housing Authority’s revenue by making vacant land available to private developers via ground leases drew the biggest response at Monday’s Association for a Better New York breakfast forum. The plan was one of three proposals introduced by NYCHA chairman John Rhea during the forum, and it brought forth the lion’s share of audience questions during a Q&A following Rhea’s presentation.
“It is clear that we have to solve our own financial challenges,” said Rhea, citing cuts in state and federal aid for affordable housing, which have taken their toll. “The federal cavalry just isn’t coming.”
Rhea’s presentation occurred a few weeks after the authority’s management of its 345 housing developments made headlines and led to calls for reform. He acknowledged the Boston Consulting Group study—which found widespread waste and inefficiency, including a backlog of 330,000 work orders—behind the media coverage, saying, “The findings were sobering.”
Further, Rhea added, “No one should underestimate the challenges of housing a population the size of the city of Boston.” About 420,000 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers live in NYCHA projects.
Taken together, Rhea said, the three proposals he announced Monday could account for up to half of the authority’s $6 billion in unfunded improvements. He called the plan to offer undeveloped NYCHA land for as-of-right development of market-rate housing “an opportunity to integrate private and public housing in a way that benefits residents of both.” It would not mean demolishing any existing public housing, he said, nor would it mean selling the undeveloped parcels. The authority plans to issue an RFP in early 2013.
In the second initiative Rhea presented on Monday, the housing authority plans to implement “one of the most ambitious energy conservation projects in history.” Specifically, NYCHA will conduct an energy audit of a large percentage of its portfolio over the next 18 months. This could finance up to $2 billion worth of upgrades.
Finally, the authority intends to tap into the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Public Housing Capital Fund to finance $500 million of major rehabilitation work at projects across the five boroughs. ABNY chairman William Rudin commented that the proposals were “big ideas,” and Rhea said the authority welcomed input on fleshing the ideas out. To that end, NYCHA has formed New Yorkers For NYCHA, a committee intended to conduct public outreach.