Can this be the ONE Government Agency that can do a better job than the Private Sector?

Trivia:  This company manages apartments housing more people than the city of Atlanta.  It employs directly and indirectly more that 150,000 people.  They are not a private company.  They are not allowed to make a profit.  They’ve been around for more than half a century.  Their “clients” are from every age, race and nationality imaginable.  They are the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and they fulfill a tremendously valuable service to New York City and to society.

NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) houses over 600,000 residents, more people than people live in many US cities .  Their job is somewhat like serving as a Board Member of a condominium , club, church or charity – it’s a highly politicized, often criticized and most importantly thankless job!

NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in North America and the numbers are staggering: 177,657 apartments; 2,547 buildings, 3,315 elevators, 11,398 employees, serving 175,817 families and 403,275 authorized residents (some say the actual number is somewhere between 600,000 and 900,000 people)!

These buildings serve low income families who are vital to the proper operation of NYC, including city employees, hospitals, teachers, nurses, emergency workers and many more. 

NYCHA rents the average apartment for $1,557 per month. Of this amount, the tenant pays an average of $464 (in most cases the maximum a tenant can pay is 30% of their income) with the rest of the money coming from federal subsidies and Section 8 vouchers, the City of New York and others.

75% of NYCHA’s buildings are more than 40 years old and need over $18 billion dollars work (that’s $101,000 per apartment!).  Assuming that this a 10 year deferment and that the average NYCHA apartment is a 2 bedroom then the total rent should be $2,399 for a fully renovated apartment in a fully renovated building.  Still a bargain compared to the $3,500 average market rate rent paid for a similar apartment in Brooklyn or Queens!

This is such a good bang for the buck that if a private developer were to build and rent these apartments out the rent would exceed $4,000 and he would be making a return of under 5%!

When one looks at some of the aging and unattractive buildings run by NYCHA one only sees the level of deferred maintenance and disrepair.  And “dis-repaired” they are! But NYCHA still provides tremendous value to the less fortunate in NYC who would otherwise not be able to afford a place to live within a 1-hour drive from NYC.  

Affordable housing is as sexy as spending money on sewer upgrades:  mayors can’t announce it on TV because it’s not newsworthy, housing and sewers are expensive and most people expect them to work and don’t care how it gets done.  

aerial - baruch

Aerial Picture of Baruch Houses (Lower East Side of Manhattan)

But the fact is that someone should donate the $100,000 to renovate each apartment so NYCHA tenants can both live better and generates an real 10% “return on investment” to those investing money on these upgrades.

The question remains: who should donate it.  The federal government is financially tapped out and is already paying for section 8 and other subsidies.  City and State governments are highly indebted and are usually running large deficits.  So I believe that the answer lies with the private sectors (non-profits, corporations and individuals).

Non-profits tend to focus on return on investment metrics when making investments or capital allocations. I can’t think of an investment generating such a generous return of 10% with the added benefit of improving people’s lives!  This is such a novel idea that the only non-profit I found is Fund for Public Housing and it is not fully operational yet.

Similarly, Corporations could channel their charitable dollars with a similar benchmark of return on investment as non-profits.  Knowing that their hard earned dollars are put to good use while helping the workforce that serve them everyday could make this a very attractive proposition.

Lastly, People could channel their donations with clever tactics it could feel more personal and impactful.  For example; instead of buying your local designer coffee, you convince someone to choose to donate the cost of one coffee to the “coffee-of-the-week” fund. Or simply forgo the $10 dog ball thrower, donate that money to this cause and get more exercise out of your dog walk.  One can use similar tactics with many other discretionary purchases and contribute toward public housing.  Feedback could be in the form of a picture and a “progress report card” from the family receiving the funds – similar to tactics used by Save the Children and other charities.  Im no marketing expert but im sure if you put a few millennials from a tech and advertising company in the room you can device a  very successful plan!

https://www.gofundme.com/DonateHay  If this GoFundMe campaign raised over $15,000 to buy hay for animals why can’t we spend that same money to replace a broken refrigerator, range, sink, toilet AND shower? Are our fellow New Yorkers not worthy of the funding, attention, care and dignity afforded to animals?
We need to fund NYCHA so we can improve the quality of lives of our fellow New Yorkers.  Since it is such a great bang for the buck why wouldn’t everyone want to pitch in!  Look us up and contribute at www.gofundme.com/NYCHA.

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