Undercrowding Vexes NYC Housing Authority

Elizabeth A. Harris explores the New York City Housing Authority's extensive underoccupied public housing dilemma and how attempts at resolving the issue delicately are failing to address the problem.
March 13, 2012, 7am PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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With large cities across the world faced with issues of public housing underoccupation, New York is not alone in confronting this challenge. However, the scale of the problem in the Big Apple is massive. Much of the problem is caused by older residents taking up multi-bedroom apartments that they no longer require.

"By its count, there are 55,000 units in New York City's public housing stock that are "underoccupied" - about one-third of all its apartments." The Housing Authority sought to address these problems by sending letters to tenants in underoccupied apartments telling them they must register to downsize to smaller apartments, reports Harris. "Only 5,000 households signed up, and only 600 actually made the move."

According to Harris, "the Housing Authority's leases have long stated that tenants must live in apartments that are appropriate for their family size, but the Housing Authority is not making a large-scale effort to force residents to downsize, in part because there is no place to put them all." Another complication keeping hesitant residents in place, is that they cannot be guaranteed a downsized apartment in their same building.

Follow ups are administered with more correspondence. For residents who do not want to move or cannot imagine living elsewhere, they can decide to ignore the letters and offers until the City agency decides to enforce downsizing.

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Published on Sunday, March 11, 2012 in The New York Times
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