NYCHA residents speak out about housing conditions amid back rent dispute

ByTom Negovan WABC logo
Thursday, August 17, 2023

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- Officials say the number of people falling behind on their rent is up, and the housing authority is losing hundreds of millions of dollars because of it, but residents say that conditions in their apartment are to blame for their late payments.

Maria Arnold said she would invite Eyewitness News in, but her place is a mess.

Photos that Arnold took appeared to show black mold. She says it's the result of a leak upstairs that the housing authority took years to fix.

She showed Eyewitness News a folder with her stack of work orders.

To make matters worse, she says she's sick.

"I'm on a lot of asthma medications, as a matter of fact, I developed COPD," she said.

She says it's because of the black mold. But Arnold is far from the only resident having problems in the building.

"With the housing, it's been hell," NYCHA resident Nancy Otero said. "Any little thing that I've accomplished, I've always had to get support and help to get things done."

As for Arnold, her 243-dollar a month rent is months behind, but she and the housing authority are in a bit of a standoff right now over repairs as unpaid rents in public housing hit a record high.

According to the state comptroller's report, rent collection was at 88% just before the pandemic. Right now, it's at about 62%.

That's equal to over half-a-billion dollars in arrears, money NYCHA needs.

"NYCHA understands the challenges that residents with rental arrears are facing. However, tenant rent is one-third of NYCHA's operating budget, and without this income, the authority cannot sustain itself," NYCHA said in a statement.

Anti-poverty advocates are looking for a solution they say the government should be providing.

"This is a situation we sort of got ourselves in," said housing specialist Iziah Thompson of the Community Service Society. "And I think it's up to the city and state to get us out of it, unless we want to increase homelessness."

For now, NYCHA is limiting the evictions to the households with the highest dollar amounts owed, but the average among them is over $7,000 right now, and rising. That's more than most could ever hope to pay.


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