CHPC’s recent study of the impact of the transfer of six Section 8 properties to a public-private partnership received coverage in Politico NY. You can read the article in full below, and our study here.

NYCHA study raises questions over funding vs. management

By Sam Raskin

06/18/2018 07:08 PM EDT

study released Monday found that New York City Public Housing Authority buildings that were transferred to the control of private developers provided better living conditions and improved tenants’ satisfaction than traditionally run NYCHA properties, but the report raised questions about whether it was a change in management or more funding that led to improved outcomes for tenants.

The evaluation, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, comes approximately four years after NYCHA transferred several properties to the control of private developers in 2014. The study compared six Section 8 buildings — with a total of 874 apartments transferred to private management — to a control group, comprised of six Section 9 buildings with 770 apartments analogous in “size, resident demographics, and location” that remained under the authority’s management, according to the report.

In short, Section 8 funding can be used by tenants in privately owned housing whereas Section 9 is dedicated solely to public housing.

The six buildings in the private group were run by the Triborough Preservation Partners, a group comprised of NYCHA, real estate development group L+M Development Partners and Preservation Development Partners. They received $80 million in renovations — an estimated $90,000 per unit.

In 2016, work orders for those buildings’ elevators dropped, repairs were made more quickly and tenants were happier compared to those solely under NYCHA’s management, according to the report, compiled via interviews, surveys and building statistics. There were roughly 10,000 fewer work orders issued at the pilot buildings, and 83 percent of pilot building tenants would recommend their building to a friend, compared to 54 percent of residents of NYCHA-managed buildings.

“It’s not surprising that the Triborough Preservation Partnership had improved relative to a control group, because those buildings received tens of millions of dollars of investment,” said Thomas Waters, a housing policy analyst at Community Service Society of New York, in an interview. The lesson to take from the study, he said, was the impact of an influx of investment in those facilities, not the virtues of private management.

The study was conducted by Citizens Housing and Planning Council at the request of NYCHA to evaluate the efficacy of “large investment in capital improvements” in city housing and “[g]ain an understanding of management practices that affect the physical, financial, and social conditions of the buildings.”

The program “could serve as a model for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program” and, more broadly, “for the Authority to ensure both the affordability and quality of its housing,” the report states. RAD is an Obama administration program administered by HUD that, among other provisions, allows public housing agencies to reap funding via debt and public equity in order to conduct maintenance.

An NYCHA spokesperson declined to comment on the report’s specific findings, saying only that public-private partnerships are one the few options to address a backlog of repairs and that proper funding can increase affordable housing.

“The biggest differences between the private study buildings and the control group buildings is the amount of subsidy they got,” Waters continued. “It could be that management helped. But given that one set of buildings got way more money, I don’t think you can conclude anything about management from the studies.”

Council Member Ritchie Torres, a vocal critic of NYCHA management, took to Twitter in response to the Journal story to say that he did not believe the study provided sufficient evidence for the merits of RAD.

“Even though I support RAD,” he tweeted, “comparing Section 8 to Section 9 is a little like comparing apples to oranges.”

During an interview with POLITICO, Torres labeled himself an “evangelist” for public-private partnerships to fund housing repairs — something he said was not born form ideology, but an “adaptation to political realities” in Washington, where leaders are loath to increase spending on housing. He said the study was valuable in that it “demonstrat[ed] the success of public-private partnerships.”

Still, he said the study was severely limited by its comparison of changes in Section 8 Housing and Section 9 Housing.

“Section 8 has proven to be a much more stable and resilient funding stream over time. The differences are so profound that the two programs are incommensurable,” Torres explained. “Comparing Section 8 to Section 9, without fully recognizing the fundamental differences in funding in both operations and capital needs, strikes me as intellectually dishonest.”

Jessica Katz, executive director of CHPC, said the study — funded by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, and the Triborough Preservation Partners — provided an apt comparison and showed the public-private partnerships could bring to the city’s public housing.

Asked about Torres’ comments on the study, she said: “I think what’s remarkable about the results of this study is that we turned an apple into an orange.”

Katz added that Torres was “not wrong that these are two very different types of properties.”

“It’s different in a bunch of technical and legal ways,” she said of Section 8 and Section 9 housing. “But it is very similar in terms of what new resources and what new partnerships are created through the RAD program.”

“Before this pilot, they were run the same way. And after this pilot, the transformation is remarkable,” she added. “The [difference between the] two sets of properties today are absolutely night and day, and that’s exactly what our study shows.”

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said the study “shows how critical public-private partnerships are to help public housing in light of continued federal neglect.”