A Comptroller Scott Stringer audit tore into the New York City Housing Authority today, finding that the cash-strapped agency failed to take advantage of $692 million in available funding between 2006 and 2011, even as other cities’ public housing programs reaped the benefits of federal money.
Standing with NYCHA tenants and other elected officials outside Brooklyn’s Farragut Houses development, Mr. Stringer faulted the housing authority for passing up $353 million from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development by failing to upgrade its buildings’ boilers and common area lighting, losing out on $262 million from HUD by not applying to reclassify 8,400 of its more than 180,000 units as subsidized Section 8 housing, not streamlining property management policies to qualify for efficiency subsidies and for spending $10 million on a private consultant to identify potential savings–and not instituting a system for tracking the implementation of the consultant’s recommendations.
The audit comes as many of NYCHA’s buildings are disrepair, with residents complaining of mold, unlit hallways and non-functioning elevators, and as the agency purports that it will require $18 billion to bring its units up to code—leading it to sell stakes in some of its properties to private developers.
“Mismanagement and bureaucratic paralysis caused it to squander $700 million in funding. We have now uncovered the truth behind NYCHA’s troubled finances. I think I speak for all New Yorkers when I say this is outrageous and unacceptable,” Mr. Stringer, unafraid to criticize Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agencies, said.
By way of example, Mr. Stringer said that Chicago’s public housing system receives $3,500 in federal energy subsidies per unit, whereas New York’s obtains just $101.
“All you have to do is call up Mayor Rahm Emanuel, get in touch with their public housing program, and say, ‘How do you get $3,500 a unit and the city, New York City only got $101?’ So we need to do some research and see how other cities do this,” he said.
Mr. Stringer declined to comment on whether he believed the money might have saved the life of Akai Gurley, a resident of Brooklyn’s Pink Houses whom a police officer in a darkened stairwell last month. Though the audit examined a time period when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in office, Deputy Comptroller Marjorie Landa noted that the new de Blasio administration leadership at the agency could have applied for many of the subsidies outlined in the report.
“We don’t audit by who the mayor is. We audit the agency. And until there’s fundamental change and a recognition by NYCHA today that there’s a problem, something they can’t seem to get their arms around, then we cannot begin to solve these issues,” Mr. Stringer said, claiming that the agency was not acting on his office’s recommendations. “Audits don’t lie.”
NYCHA, for its part, disputed the comptroller’s numbers, noting that they are essentially projections based on money it could have obtained and not actual amounts the authority wasted. It pointed out that it now enjoys new leadership, and that it did qualify for a large amount of federal subsidies under the old regime.
“The audit has no findings related to current business practices and finances and uses outdated facts and alarmist, unrealistic figures, instead of setting out constructive ways public housing can be preserved and maintained for generations to come,” an agency spokesperson said.
The agency also claimed that it has been implementing the private consultant’s recommendations, that it furnished Mr. Stringer with information demonstrating that.
Mr. Stringer hit the authority with an audit earlier this year for what he claimed was a failure to monitor work by private contractors.