FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 27, 2017
NYCHA CHAIR SHOLA OLATOYE DELIVERS SPEECH ON THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC HOUSING AT NAHRO CONFERENCE IN WASHINGTON
NEW YORK—Today, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chair & CEO Shola Olatoye delivered a speech on the future of public housing at the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) Washington conference “Advocacy for a Better Tomorrow:”
Good morning! Thank you for your partnership and that wonderful introduction. It’s an honor to be here with so many colleagues from across the country, and to hear from Secretary Carson this morning.
This year’s conference is entitled, “Advocacy for a Better Tomorrow.”
I appreciate the optimism and focus that NAHRO is bringing to our conversation about not just what kind of housing administrators do we want to be, but what kind of country do we envision?
I’ll be honest, when the President proposes a $6.2 billion cut to HUD’s budget and a reported two-thirds slash to the capital fund – you have to wonder if public housing will even have a tomorrow, let alone a “better” one.
Whether you’re housing 400,000 families in New York City or 140 families in Belding, Michigan, threats of this magnitude could have devastating, human consequences.
Luckily, where I’m from, we don’t take these kinds of threats lying down.
For 83 years, New York City has held public housing up as a quintessential part of our City.
Public housing authorities were the original place-based centers of innovation and critical infrastructure that spurred public and private investment across this great country.
This morning, I submit to you that: innovation, investment, and infrastructure are the keys to ensure public housing is here for today’s and tomorrow’s generation.
Our work has always been about much more than housing – it’s been about connecting residents to opportunity and leading the public sector.
From the first settlement house over a century ago, which promoted economic integration and mobility of immigrant families and the working poor, innovation and jobs were baked into public housing’s DNA.
PHAs have trained generations of American workers and business leaders.
It’s no coincidence that titans of industry, such as Starbucks Chair/CEO Howard Schultz and Xerox Chairwoman Ursula Burns, have roots in public housing.
For PHAs and housing program administrators, innovation must also mean technology. Embracing and leveraging technology to make our business more modern, adaptive and efficient. From online services to smartphone apps, we must put the customer at the center of the housing delivery model.
For example, in New York City, we launched the MyNYCHA app, which allows residents to schedule maintenance from their smartphones as well as track real-time notification data. We also launched the Fund for Public Housing, an independent, nonprofit social venture to serve as our “innovation escape hatch.” The Fund is partnering with tech companies to crowd source and pilot new heating, safety, and workforce initiatives.
Public housing authorities and housing administrators have embraced private investment not as a last resort but as entrepreneurs and as a bridge to a 21st century business model.
As public housing is faced with a fundamental shift in business, programs like LIHTC and RAD (the Rental Assistance Demonstration) have been a lifeline for many PHAs, including New York City, as a long-term, public-private solution to address unmet capital needs and to preserve affordable units.
Public-private partnerships are working in El Paso, Texas, where $1 billion is being invested to rebuild or renovate almost all of their public housing by 2020.
From DC to Denver, communities and PHAs are deploying EB5 capital (I see you Adrienne!), NMTC, and more.
Even with the success of RAD and other financial tools, we’re going to need more from Washington.
Recently, I spent a morning looking through NYCHA’s 83 years of written and oral history maintained by the LaGuardia Community College-Wagner Archives. With a pair of white gloves, I poked around in history.
Found in those dusty and yellowing files were maps of roads, sewer pipes, and renderings of new buildings.
It dawned on me: Public housing was the infrastructure of the 20thcentury.
In the 21st century, investing in public and affordable housing again can spur the type of economic regeneration that this President has promised.
Consider this: In 2010, there was at least $26 billion in public housing infrastructure needs across the nation. By all estimates, that number has likely doubled since then. In New York City, we have some of the oldest public housing in the country; our capital need alone is $17 billion.
Since government investment has not kept pace with capital needs, decades of rationed capital dollars have slowly and deliberately cannibalized public housing assets.
The quality and condition of our housing stock has dramatically declined, impacting the health and well-being of public housing residents across the country, from rural and Indian housing in Wisconsin to WWII-era housing in North Carolina.
Simply put, we know poor housing conditions contribute to poor health outcomes, especially among vulnerable populations, such as children, seniors, and the disabled.
This is simply unacceptable.
Housing, like medicine, should “do no harm.”
That’s why I’m proud to announce a new collaboration between the New York City Housing Authority and NAHRO to build a national network of PHAs leading the conversation on health and housing.
This collaboration seeks to demonstrate that policy and funding decisions in public housing have health implications on children, seniors, and those living in our housing. Secretary Carson has spoken with conviction about breaking down the silos in health care.
Arguably, this same approach is essential in his work to invest in communities and opportunity for our children and our seniors.
In bringing together a diverse coalition across sectors, such as labor, construction, business, and health, and with PHAs from across the country, we hope to send a powerful message to Capitol Hill and the administration: Public housing infrastructure is crucial to the health of 2.6 million Americans.
Our health and housing advocacy efforts will be focused on:
I’d like to invite each of you to join our health and housing advocacy efforts. Your voice in our chorus can make a real difference.
Our coalition is a way for the nation’s “housers,” including PHAs and CDBG and HOME administrators, to double down on our commitment to the health and safety of residents, while we reclaim the narrative that housing infrastructure spurs investment and creates jobs.
It’s time for PHAs to not shy away from talking about the conditions we battle daily. As an industry, it’s time for us to not allow ourselves to be divided into those who only care about the capital fund and those who care about CDBG.
Perhaps in our favor is a Secretary with a career in medicine.
There is no one better positioned than Secretary Carson to not only understand the health impacts of deteriorating housing but to actually do something about it.
Margaret Mead said never doubt the ability of a small, thoughtful group to bring about change. Well, we represent a combined 2.6 million Americans, so I expect big things!
Thank you. I look forward to working with you all, and so does my Mayor. New York City’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, asked that I bring this video message to share with you.