RAD is Bad

Mayor de Blasio wants to sell 1/3 of NYCHA to private owners.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) has announced plans to sell 1/3 of the apartments owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to the real estate industry. This amounts to 62,000 apartments.

Mayor de Blasio claims that the sale of public housing will benefit NYCHA tenants, but that is a lie. The sale of NYCHA will benefit certain participants of the real estate industry. This is the same real estate industry that aims to deregulate rents and to fight the enforcement of tenant protections. This is also the same real estate industry that refuses to pay its fair share of taxes.

Besides selling 62,000 apartments, Mayor de Blasio said he also expects to sell play grounds, green lawns, parking lots, and air rights. His plan is to raise $24 billion.

The plan is convert public housing to Section 8 under a Government program called Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). This would allow private corporations to become the landlords of NYCHA.

Bill de Blasio, center, with then NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, and Bill Rudin, now CEO of REBNY.

Long disenfranchised, NYCHA residents are powerless in RAD conversion of public housing.

Even before Mayor de Blasio announced his plan to sell NYCHA, public housing tenants faced “nuisance abatement complaints” that were used as a pretext to evict or to permanently exclude some tenants from public housing. Stricter house rules, like the ban against smoking, have threatened to ruin tenants’ quiet enjoyment of their tenancy. And having to put up with bad living conditions can be seen as another form of tenant harassment. Even though by one estimate up to 600,000 people may live in NYCHA apartment buildings, the tenants have no voice in how they are governed.

To that end, it is expected that NYCHA tenants will have no say in which buildings will be sold by Mayor de Blasio.

Because Mayor de Blasio plans to sell $24 billion in NYCHA assets to raise money for back repairs, it is not known how real estate developers plan to pay so much money for buildings needing major repairs. Some tenants fear that Mayor de Blasio will sell NYCHA buildings that don’t need so many repairs, so he can raise the money he needs. To some, this makes sense, because why would private sector landlords buy NYCHA buildings that need major repairs ? If private sector landlords want to make the most in profit from rent, then NYCHA tenants need to expect that, regardless of whether their apartment building needs major repairs, they face the possibility of rent increases.

The Government says RAD is harmful to tenants.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a Federal agency that audits and investigates government programs. A 2018 GAO report showed that of 26,000 RAD conversions of public housing apartments, 57 per cent. of tenants faced rent hikes, according to a report published by City Limits.

Residents in 6 of 14 focus groups complained to GAO that renovations were of poor quality. But there are more serious concerns about RAD.

The National Housing Law Project fights for housing justice. The NHLP has complained to HUD that new RAD owners of formerly public housing apartments illegally interfere with tenants’ ability to organize, illegal re-screening tenants for readmission, and carry-out illegal evictions.

RAD has been a bad deal in several states.

Because of RAD, some public tenants in Virginia faced discrimination and threats of eviction. In Maryland, RAD led to premature vacate notices, lack of information requesting objection hearings, unclear letters ,and early filings of breach of lease complaints.

Even if RAD does not completely expose tenants to the dangerous, free market forces, whenever private landlords have a final say over apartment buildings, tenants end up losing. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Black neighborhoods faced about double the exploitation rate of non-Black neighborhoods.