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Sequester Still Punishes the Poor

poor child
IMG: via Shutterstock

The failure of Congress to pass a budget is being felt by the poorest Americans, as cuts to subsidized housing groups continue.  The Budget Control Act, commonly known as the sequester, has slashed a trillion dollars in federal funding to public programs across the board.  The New York City Housing Authority, (NYCHA), the nation’s largest public housing authority, announced that over 200 million dollars in funding have been lost since the sequester took effect on March 1st.  Overall, as many as 150,000 households that rely on vouchers to pay rent could be affected by the cuts.  Most housing authorities are dealing with the cuts through canceling new vouchers that were due to be issued this summer.  Other units may have to raise rent or default on mortgages.

John Rhea said in a press release that the mandatory cuts “severely hinder” the work of the housing authority.  The NYCHA chairman continued by assuring residents the commitment to maintain their developments and meet the goals to eliminate the backlog of repair requests this year.  Other ways the organization is dealing with budget cuts have included lay-offs, a hiring freeze and possible furloughs.  The plan to issue 5,000 new vouchers had to be canceled.

The voucher program for subsidized housing began with programs created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development during President Nixon’s term.  This is the first time the program has experienced any significant cuts.  The vouchers make it possible for low income households, especially seniors or those who are disabled, to be able to afford private rental housing.  If the vouchers are lost, it is possible many will lose their apartments and become homeless or institutionalized.  Some building owners rely on the vouchers to keep their building running, and some landlords also worry about defaulting on their loans.  This could put thousands of people on the streets and threaten the safety and health of not only New York, but cities across the country.

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NYCHA Invests $18 M in Capital Improvements

From January to March this year, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will be making the most of the $18 million provided by grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). With the capital, NYCHA plans to improve eleven of its housing developments in NYC.

“NYCHA continues to make improvements to its building structures and systems by spending its money wisely, and in the best interests of residents,” Chairman John Rhea of NYCHA said in a press release. “These major upgrades are needed regularly to ensure the preservation of our aging building stock, with 70 percent of our buildings more than 40 years old.”

The improvements to NYCHA that John Rhea is speaking of include brickwork, re-pointing, roof replacements, kitchen upgrades, installations of security cameras and intercom systems, bathroom renovations, basketball court renovations, and lighting fixture and spray shower upgrades.

Scheduled to be completed by March 2013, the repairs and upgrades will take place at Red Hook West, East New York City Line, Whitman Houses, Ingersoll Houses, Murphy Houses, Jackson Houses, Isaacs Houses, Glenwood Houses, Taft Rehab, and South Jamaica Houses.

The upgrades and repairs to NYCHA developments will affect about 22,000 residents, and will be an aggressive move to preserve what John Rhea calls “aging building stock.” In the past three years alone, NYCHA has invested more than $1.5 billion in capital investments to this end, with about $423 million coming from federal Stimulus funding. The ongoing effort keeps buildings structurally sound, economically friendly, and in a good state of repair for the more than 600,000 residents.