The federal government has slashed $35 million from NYCHA’s budget, immediately imperiling the city’s already unsteady public housing authority, which has only recently begun to take steps towards a financial recovery following years of neglect from Washington. These cuts are taking place even before the nation’s Republican-controlled government begins to iron out a budget which will certainly see even deeper cuts to the social safety net, including public housing and Section 8 vouchers.
NYCHA says that the cuts include $27.7 million in operating funds, and 7.7 million for section 8 vouchers.
“This fits right into the right-wing conservative vision of dismantling the urban safety net, at the heart of which is public housing,” said City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, the chair of the Committee on Public Housing. “This represents the first salvo in Donald Trump’s war on public housing, on the poor, and his war on New York City.”
Torres told the Voice that the budget cuts were made when HUD “manipulated” the formula that allocates already-budgeted funds to NYCHA, that he was briefed on the cuts a week ago. He says the cuts will bite into NYCHA’s current budget immediately.
“This is going to destabilize the operations of an unstable public housing authority. NYCHA has been so savagely starved of operating capital funding, that it cannot afford to absorb a new level of budget cuts,” Torres said. “It was on a precipice before Donald Trump. Donald Trump will now throw it off the precipice.”
In a statement, Scott Stringer, the city’s comptroller, said “And so it begins. We all have long known that leadership in Washington seeks to shred the social safety net by slashing funding for those who need it most…Now, it’s happening — and it’s starting with NYCHA. The White House is actively targeting our most vulnerable citizens. It’s wrong.”
As of 2015, the authority had already posted a staggering capital debt of $17.1 billion. In response, the de Blasio administration launched its NextGen Neighborhoods program, which sought to sell off underutilized land owned by NYCHA for market-rate and affordable development. That plan has already met fierce resistance from NYCHA tenants who believe the program won’t come close to filling NYCHA’s budget gaps, while, in turn, speeding up gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods.
In the short term, Torres feels that NYCHA can hand over more responsibilities, like sanitation and sidewalk repairs, to the city government, helping to alleviate its financial burdens. But even then, he admits, “there’s no magic bullet.”
“Infill and NextGen faces fierce resistance from tenants already,” Torres said. “I’m skeptical that it would generate the revenue that it promises. It’s a one-time infusion. It’s a marginal improvement, but hardly the future.”
NYCHA is already bracing for more cuts once the budget process plays out in Washington, but with city services sure to be slashed across the board, there might not be enough money to plug the gap that HUD has already blown.
Over the first fifty days of his presidency, Donald Trump has cost taxpayers $56.6 million to protect Trump Tower in Manhattan, as well as over $3 million for every trip he takes down to Mar-a-Lago for weekends.