An audit released on Monday, July 13 by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has brought to light a serious problem with NYC public housing options, the New York Times has reported.
According to the audit, NYC residents living in public housing have been forced to live in homes that are in grave disrepair, with thousands of service requests pending for months on end. Despite multiple lawsuits and rent strikes by tenants, the NYT has reported that the public housing system work orders are “still being made at a glacial pace, if at all.”
Stringer has suggested that the city invest in technology that is capable of tracking housing repair requests and services provided, similar to the CompStat computing program that the city’s Police Department uses to track and respond to crime reports.
According to the audit, authorities examined the system during an 18-month period, from January 2013 to July 2014. During that time, auditors found a backlog of 55,000 pending work orders, 2,500 of which had been pending for over a year.
The auditors also found that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) typically received an average 9,000 new work order requests per day, but the agency failed to assess how many work orders were actually needed because if a maintenance worker showed up at a home when the residents were not there, the worker would leave without making the repair — but the order request would be closed.
According to the New York Daily News, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised during 2015 — his last year as mayor — that he would address the backlog of 420,000 work orders. Although the NYCHA confirmed that it had brought this number down to 120,000 in April 2015, the recent audit suggests that the real problem hasn’t been fixed.
In other words, NYCHA has been closing work orders on purpose, but without actually making the repairs that tenants desperately need.
The NY Daily News explains that one of the main problems is that NYCHA claims to have a completion goal lasting no longer than 15 days — but instead of putting this 15-day cap on the entire project, NYCHA allows 15 days for each individual step involved.
For example, the NY Daily News said, a tenant may find a water leak in the bathroom and submit a request to have it fixed. Considering that bathroom repair projects are the most common of all home repairs, accounting for some 78% of them, these projects should be simple and quick to fix.
In reality, the project is broken into multiple steps: inspect the leak, open the wall to fix the leak, plaster and paint the wall — and each of steps can take up to 15 days.
With a monitoring system like CompStat, NYCHA would be held responsible for entire projects and not just single steps.