Opinion: City’s Finance-Driven Approach to Managing NYCHA is Wrong for Tenants

On Tuesday, July 28th, the Chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Greg Russ introduced a new “preservation strategy” for the city’s public housing. As City Limits reporter Sadef Ali Kully outlined recently, this strategy involves creating a new public entity called The Public Preservation Trust. This Public Trust will pursue an alternative HUD subsidy, tenant protection vouchers, which will be leveraged to create financing streams to repair the remaining 110,000 units that are not pegged for the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. 

In clarifying this strategy, NYCHA and its CEO use the framing “public-to-public” transfer, and emphasize that this is not a privatization plan. NYCHA will maintain ownership of the land and buildings and only transfer them to the Public Trust through a long-term ground lease. NYCHA will then be hired by the Trust to manage the properties. 

This is the latest strategy to be proposed, following NextGeneration NYCHA and NYCHA 2.0. Both of these previous plans transfer control over parts of NYCHA campuses to private developers, whether parking lots and open space or buildings and units. This has been a main point of critique from tenants and grassroots community groups, including the Justice For All Coalition, of which I am a member. My guess is that the emphasis on “public” is intended to highlight how this strategy departs from the most controversial aspects of the previous two plans, and to quell concerns before they arise. 

However, my critique of the new plan is rooted in a commonality across these plans, and a trend in our city that undergirds a lot of community-based concerns and organizing efforts beyond public housing. In short, all of these plans are about the financialization of public housing. Said another way, these strategies work to bring public housing under the control of financial professionals, and market logics, processes, and practices.

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