Public Housing



The Issue

Resident partnership can help new efforts to renovate public housing deliver substantial and durable improvements for residents.

With an estimated $78.3 billion deficit in capital needs, NYCHA has been developing a series of programs to bring in new investment and management improvements to public housing. The most prominent program is PACT (Permanent Affordability Commitment Together), NYC’s version of the federal RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) program. More recently, the State has also created a public entity, the Public Housing Preservation Trust, as an alternative vehicle for conversion to Project-Based Section 8.

The conversions to Project-Based Section 8 represent a crucial opportunity to bring in new capital and new management for public housing residents. But the conversion from Section 9 housing can be controversial: fear about the involvement of private companies, and a lack of trust from elected officials, community organizations, and public housing residents could stall the program. If the Section 8 model is to be expanded or replicated, it will be important to demonstrate the improvements this public-private partnership can deliver for residents’ lives.

CHPC's Vision

Lessons drawn from the “regeneration” of London’s public housing have helped CHPC launch ongoing innovations in resident partnership for New York City’s public housing

In 2019, CHPC published a study about the vast improvements made in London’s public housing conditions over the last three decades. Pivotal to the success of England’s public housing transformation was the elevation of residents’ role in all decision-making around the “regeneration” of its public housing. Residents were given a menu of program options to choose from to improve their homes. They selected developers, general contractors, and architects. They worked in partnership with affordable housing providers and housing authorities to develop viable scopes for renovations or redevelopments, and to create and implement new property management plans. Residents were treated as the clients for property managers and architects for their new homes, and given final votes on plans.

Through this best-practices research, CHPC uncovered many reasons why the elevation of the role of residents in the planning for regeneration projects was beneficial for new public-private partnerships, including:

  • The treatment of public housing residents has been systematically poor. There is a moral imperative to listen to their voices, offer them more control over their quality of life, and to treat them as the true client of the renovation of their own homes.
  • Public housing residents often have detailed, technical knowledge of their buildings that should be harnessed.
  • The public sector can tend toward paternalism, politicization, and bureaucracy; it is difficult in a large system to tailor services to individual developments or resident needs and achieve efficiency. The private sector is responsive to investor requirements and efficiency of operation, but may be prone to prioritizing financial considerations over attention on the resident. Having residents join a public-private partnership in a tri-party arrangement can offset both weaknesses.

Following these studies, CHPC has been focused on bringing insights from the UK experience to New York City. Since 2021, we have seen extraordinary progress in the implementation of resident decision-making for public housing residents going through the PACT program, driven significantly by our ongoing research.

CHPC’s continued work on this topic is focused on supporting NYCHA, resident leaders, and the affordable housing industry to further implement the systems and processes needed for effective resident partnership in renovation planning and property management.

CHPC in the media