Executive Summary

The objective of this audit was to determine whether the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) had adequate controls to enable it to accurately monitor and track vacant apartments in its public housing developments throughout the five boroughs.

NYCHA provides affordable housing for nearly 403,000 low- and moderate-income City residents within 328 housing developments throughout the five boroughs.  NYCHA’s mission is to increase opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by providing safe, affordable housing.  NYCHA classifies apartments as being either on the rent roll (on-roll) or off the rent roll (off-roll), depending on the apartment’s availability for residential use.  An on-roll apartment is an apartment either occupied by a tenant or undergoing the process of turnover to a new tenant.  An off-roll apartment is an apartment that is not available for residential use for an extended period.

According to NYCHA records, as of September 19, 2014, NYCHA’s inventory of more than 178,000 apartments included 2,342 vacant apartments, consisting of 1,366 off-roll apartments and 976 on-roll apartments.  This constitutes a vacancy rate of one percent.  Also according to information provided by NYCHA, as of December 22, 2014, there was a wait list of 273,391 households vying for NYCHA apartments.

Audit Findings and Conclusion

Notwithstanding NYCHA’s low vacancy rate of only one percent, the audit found that NYCHA had inadequate controls in place over the monitoring and tracking of its vacant apartments.  NYCHA did not ensure that vacant apartments both on and off the rent roll were repopulated with new tenants in a timely manner.  Regarding vacant off-roll apartments, the audit found that apartments removed because they needed major repairs or renovations remained off the rent roll an average of 2,605 days and that apartments removed because of relocations for elevator rehabilitation remained off the rent roll an average of 689 days.  Regarding vacant on-roll apartments, the audit found that NYCHA took an average of 116 days to fill apartments from our sample of seven developments with new tenants, significantly longer than its stated goal of 40 days.

The audit also found that NYCHA did not ensure that property managers consistently monitored the conditions of vacant off-roll apartments, increasing their susceptibility to vandalism and unauthorized tenants.  Finally, the audit found that NYCHA had inadequate controls over the management of apartments allocated for non-residential use by NYCHA or other organizations.

Audit Recommendations

Based on the audit we make ten recommendations, including:

  • NYCHA should improve its procedures and oversight related to the coordination and completion of repairs and major modernizations so that the apartments can be promptly rented once the work is complete.
  • NYCHA should either ensure that tenants who are temporarily moved due to elevator rehabilitation move back to their original apartments timely so the temporary apartments can be rented to other tenants or promptly rent out the relocated tenants’ original apartments.
  • NYCHA should make greater efforts to ensure that all developments turn over vacant apartments in a timely manner.
  • NYCHA should institute a policy and protocols requiring periodic monitoring of vacant apartments to help ensure the apartments are secure and are not furthered damaged.
  • NYCHA should maintain up-to-date and accurate records on agencies and private organizations’ use of apartments.

Agency Response

NYCHA generally agreed with nine of the ten recommendations.  NYCHA disagreed with the recommendation that it ensure that the occupancy status for off-roll apartments that have been combined with other apartments or used for non-dwelling purposes reflect their current status and maintains that its current method of identification is sufficient.