Musty and moldy smells are a daily hazard in 12,600 NYCHA households
Analysis of 2014 Housing Vacancy Survey data shows peeling paint, mice, heating breakdowns at NYCHA vastly outpace all other types of housing

(New York, NY) – Physical conditions in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings and apartments — including cracked walls, holes in floors, and peeling paint — have continued to worsen over the past several years, according to a new housing brief analyzing 2014 Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS) data released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

“Housing conditions at NYCHA remain a tenant’s nightmare, with moldy units, holes in floors, and broken walls,” Comptroller Stringer said. “These apartments are our most valuable affordable housing resource, which is why it’s so vital for NYCHA to bring these units into a state of good repair. Fixing these troubling conditions and giving every NYCHA resident a safe place to live must be a priority for the City.”

The Comptroller’s analysis examined the most recently published data from the Housing Vacancy Survey, a comprehensive set of point-in-time measurements conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Structural condition data is based on assessments by Census field representatives while maintenance and apartment deficiencies are informed by survey responses of City residents.

The 2014 survey data found that the structural condition of NYCHA buildings had declined in 9 of 18 measures from 2011 and improved in other categories. However, the rate of observed deficiencies in four of the seven most important apartment maintenance categories grew during this same time period.

Key findings include:

  • In 2014, reports of musty and moldy smells were included in the HVS for the first time. The analysis found that 7.1% of NYCHA households, more than 12,600 units, reported musty/moldy smells on a daily basis inside their apartments and 13.3% reported that condition a few times in a year. That daily rate is more than double the rate of rent stabilized tenants (3.5%) and substantially higher than market-rate tenants (1.2%) and owner-occupied housing (0.3%).
  • Bulging or sloping wall conditions, a sign of significant structural neglect, more than tripled from 365 in 2008 to 1,164 in 2014. Observations of boarded up windows steadily increased during that same time period, rising from 1,372 in 2008 to 2,003 in 2014. There were 1,983 slanted or shifted doorsills or door frame observations in 2014, the highest-recorded level since 2002.
  • Half of the measures of structural conditions deteriorated in NYCHA buildings from 2011 to 2014. These included a 371.8% increase in major cracks in outside walls, a 72.6% increase in holes or missing floors and a 38.1% increase in sagging or sloping floors.
  • For the first time in at least 12 years, rates of observed instances of heating equipment breakdowns, additional heating required, presence of mice or rats, cracks and holes in interior walls and ceilings, floor holes, broken plaster, and peeling paint and water leakage were all higher at NYCHA than in rent-stabilized, market rate rental and owner-occupied housing units.
  • Two other notable maintenance deficiency rates in the City’s public housing stock that worsened from 2011 to 2014 include toilet breakdowns (6.2% increase) and kitchen facilities not working (7.0% increase).
  • Areas where conditions improved from 2011 to 2014 included rotten or loose window frames (48.1% decrease), broken or missing windows (44% decrease), elevators not accessible for wheelchairs (38.1% decrease), dilapidated buildings (35% decrease) and missing siding or outside walls (23.3% decrease).

In September 2014, Comptroller Stringer called for the projected surpluses from the Battery Park City Authority to be directed specifically toward critically needed repairs at NYCHA properties, which would be the first new funding stream to NYCHA in a generation. In order to enact this policy, the Governor, New York City Mayor and Comptroller must all support the redirection of funds. In January 2016, the Governor backed the plan.

“These findings are deeply troubling and we must take immediate steps to ensure that housing conditions at NYCHA improve across the board. I again urge the Administration to give their support to direct surplus Battery Park City Authority funds to create the first new funding stream in a generation for NYCHA . If we want every New Yorker to have a fair and fighting chance to make it in this city, we have an obligation to act without delay,” Stringer said.

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Source: NYC Comptroller’s Office from New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey Microdata

To read the full report, click here.

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