Stringer NYCHA Audit Finds Apartments Vacant For Over A Decade

Eighty New York City Housing Authority apartments have been left vacant for over a decade, and another 161 apartments have been empty for between three and 10 years, according to a startling audit of NYCHA housing stock that City Comptroller Scott Stringer released yesterday in front of the Raymond V. Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene.

Additionally, auditors checked 99 apartments that were listed as vacant and found that 47 of them were in fact occupied. Twenty-one of the apartments had been combined with other units, 17 were being used by NYCHA for community centers, offices or resident associations and several others were being used by temporary tenants, other City agencies or private agencies for community programs.

Comptroller Scott Stringer talks about his NYCHA audit.
Comptroller Scott Stringer talks about his NYCHA audit.

“The fact that NYCHA has left 80 apartments vacant for over a decade, and another 161 apartments sitting empty for between three and ten years, is simply unacceptable,” Stringer said. “The more than 270,000 New Yorkers who are waiting for housing deserve much better treatment than that. It’s well past time for NYCHA to start getting it right.”

The audit also found that major repair and renovations take NYCHA apartments off the rent rolls for an average of seven years while renovating. While NYCHA claims to have 2,342 vacant apartments, the audit made clear their figures were just estimates, with some of the units actually occupied by squatters and other City agencies.

Auditors looked at 328 housing developments from July 2012 through April 2015.

NYCHA monitored vacant apartments through what they categorized as an “off-roll” and “on-roll” system. “Off-roll” is categorized as being unoccupied for an extended period of time. As of September 2014, NYCHA listed 1,366 off-roll apartments. Auditors found that 312 of these apartments had been removed from rent rolls for renovations and were actually left vacant for an average of 2,605 days.

“On-roll” is considered apartments that are occupied or in the process of being turned over to a new tenant. While NYCHA’s goal is to turn over apartments in 40 days, as of September 2014, there were 976 on-roll apartments listed. Of the 115 apartments sampled by auditors, 88 were vacant for an average of 116 days.

City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo said the audit provides a road map for improving NYCHA.
City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo said the audit provides a road map for improving NYCHA.

Fort Greene City Council member Laurie Cumbo, who is a passionate advocate for improved NYCHA services, said the findings from the audit is not to point fingers at anybody, but rather to show the challenges of how the city can reduce the vacancy rates and work together to make NYCHA housing a stronger and better place to live.

“We have so many people, almost 60,000 people, in our homeless shelters. We have so many that are victims of domestic violence that are waiting for an emergency transfer. We have so many of our veterans, so many individuals on our waiting list, we can’t afford to have one apartment empty,” said Cumbo.

Ronald Byard, 62, a 25-year resident at Ingersoll said the development has provided him with work over the years and that there can be a great opportunity for the kids of the neighborhood to be educated. “They say they want to give us jobs. The least they can do is teach our kids trades like welding and characteristics like integrity that they can take with them for a lifetime,” said Byard.

 

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