NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With the homeless crisis reaching a critical level in New York City, 7 On Your Side Investigates found thousands of city-run apartments are sitting empty.
Right now there are more than 4,800 NYCHA apartments that are vacant. If you do the math, that's enough to fill the entire Empire State Building and then some.
Eyewitness News found there are big delays when it comes to the city turning around apartments to new tenants.
"I want my own place, I don't know what else to do," Betty Bernhart said.
The Brooklyn resident hasn't been waiting for weeks or months on the waitlist for a NYCHA apartment, but years. More than six years.
"It's really, really frustrating for a person that has a job that is willing to pay whatever they need to because I have a good job, but nothing, nothing," Bernhart said.
She's not alone. More than 240,000 people are on the waitlist.
Here's one of the main issues that's increasing wait times. When someone moves out of a NYCHA apartment, it's taking long for it to get fixed up so new tenants can move in.
The turnaround time jumped from 120 days at the end of 2021, to 412 days in September of this year.
"It's inexcusable," said city councilmember Lincoln Restler, who is a member of the Committee on Public Housing. "They are failing to manager our housing authority properly."
NYCHA told Eyewitness News that many of the buildings are old and need "significant" repairs from multiple skilled trades and those repairs are best done when the apartment is vacant. In addition, lead and asbestos testing can take up to six months.
The city denied a request for an interview and sent this statement:
"NYCHA's goal is to provide housing to residents as quickly as possible while ensuring that New Yorkers are being placed in safe homes that have been remediated of specific hazards. This extensive and required environmental work is best performed at turnover, when apartments are unoccupied, and remains essential to improving the quality of life of public housing residents across the city. We are prioritizing the turnover of vacant apartments and will continue to closely monitor these efforts going forward."
When asked why the vacant turnaround times have tripled, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, who is in charge of housing said, "Our mission here is to make those improvements and reduce those times."
Meanwhile, councilmember Restler is pushing for more money to be spent on long-term repairs.
"There is no excuse for the extreme delays and these delays have real consequences on people's lives," Restler said.
It has real consequences for Betty. She has been living with friends until she gets a place of her own.
"I understand like NYCHA is doing their part and they have to do whatever it is, but at least send us a letter, let us know, 'Listen, we got your documents, you're still on the waiting list,' you know, let me know that I'm alive," she said.
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