As the sequester continues in Washington, D.C., it appears cuts to government-funded programs are sparing no one. That includes the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which is seeing cuts totaling $205 million.
NYCHA recently announced a series of budgetary cuts including layoffs; a reduction in overtime spending; a hiring freeze, which began in February 2013; attrition with only minimal back-filling of positions; the elimination of programs; and possible furloughs.
However, NYCHA said it’s committed to continuing with its action plan to eliminate the backlog of maintenance and repair work orders, as well as continuing to offer community and senior programs this summer. Improvements will continue its capital improvements to major projects such as roof repair, elevator rehabilitation, heating and plumbing systems and brickwork.
“These mandatory cuts severely hinder our work to provide safe, affordable housing, as well as access to critical services to the most vulnerable population–low-income New Yorkers,” said NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea. “While we will continue to maintain our developments and provide service to all of our residents to the best of our ability, sequestration underscores the need for NYCHA to pursue alternative sources of funding that aren’t subject to government appropriations and can reliably sustain our mission to house low-income families in New York City.”
The hiring freeze will allow NYCHA to continue to provide basic services to residents and will explore implementing furloughs. The authority will not proceed with its usual seasonal program hiring. However, NYCHA is able to hire staff for community and senior center summer programs this summer provided by city funding, which are scheduled to begin on July 8.
“There is no question that these reductions will be painful and create additional challenges for us in meeting the needs of our residents,” said NYCHA General Manager Cecil R. House. “However, the dedication and creativity of NYCHA’s staff will continue to deliver great results for the families who count on us.”
Section 8, a program NYCHA oversees, could also be affected by the sequester. Payments from a current rate of 110 percent to 90 percent of HUD’s Fair Market Rent could lead to a possible increase in the tenant’s rent.
Sequestration is the latest blow to public housing and comes on the heels of over a decade of disinvestment. Since 2001, NYCHA’s federal funding has declined by more than $2 billion. Even before the onset of the sequestration cuts, NYCHA faced a structural annual operating deficit of $60 million, and $14 billion in unfunded capital improvements for new roofs, brickwork, heating and plumbing systems and elevators.