Housing Authority Wants to Sell Air Rights, Raise Rents

Monday, January 09, 2012

The New York City Housing Authority may sell air rights to help offset its crippling deficit, according to its five-year plan released Monday.

The report projected that by 2015, there will be a $13 billion gap between what NYCHA’s received in capital funding and what it needs to fix its buildings and infrastructure.

Among the ideas floated for closing this gap is selling air rights – the empty space above buildings – at some of its properties. With 334 developments throughout New York City, Chairman John Rhea said developers seeking air rights often approach NYCHA.

“In some cases, we’d like to pursue that conversation where we don’t think that increased density is something we would use ourselves,” Rhea said

He said hundreds of millions of dollars could be made from selling air rights.

Rhea said the Housing Authority is also exploring a plan that would allow developers to build larger projects in exchange for providing funds to fix up some of NYCHA’s rundown properties.

The idea is an off-shoot of what’s called inclusionary zoning – a policy that allows developers to increase density at market rate projects if they agree to set aside a certain amount of affordable housing. 

In addition to raising revenue, the Authority said it plans to make its developments more equitable by requiring all tenants to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent.

Now, NYCHA said approximately one-third of tenants are paying less than that because of a rent cap set at around $2,000. Rhea said the rent cap will now be replaced with whatever the market rate rent is for the area and increases will be phased in over time. 

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez said she questioned how fair it was to charge more than $2,000 a month for apartments that are in desperate need of repair.  

The highest earners in NYCHA developments will also be asked to leave public housing in order to make room for needier families.

Rhea could not say exactly how many families would be affected, but did say it would be in the thousands. There are more than 170,000 households in public housing, Rhea said. 

He added it would also free up apartments for families squeezed into units that are too small for them.

According to NYCHA there are 161,000 families currently on its waiting list.

Agnes Rivera, a public housing tenant and a member of Community Voices Heard, said even though some families have higher incomes they still wouldn’t be able to afford market rents, especially those in large three- and four-bedroom units.

“The rents out there are outrageous,” she said.

Rivera also noted that some families do have higher incomes, but it’s because there are two generations of families living together with three or four adults working in the household. She worried that if they were forced to move out and split up, there’d be no place they could afford.

NYCHA could not give an exact time frame for the changes to take place. Rhea said families that are asked to move would be given priority for any new mixed income units that become available.  

Correction: An earlier version of this article said NYCHA had 343 developments throughout the city. This is incorrect. NYCHA has 334. The article also said the rent cap was $2,000. This is not correct. The rent cap is nearly $2,000.


More in:

Comments [9]

m. rivera from 344sucks

how about all of you stop raising generations in the same apartments their grandparents grew up in...that's not why housing was built it was to help low income people achieve better and strive for more like a regular apt condo co-op or even a house someday.... The biggest problem 344 east 28th street has is the people who take advantage of the housing system for decades collecting welfare checks and having babies when they should be striving to do better...Stop raising third and fourth generations in housing...better yourself there is more out there in the world besides the projects...wake up people

Feb. 02 2013 12:39 PM

The housing authority doesn't own the space above buildings. Nobody 'owns' it until someone create value within it. The government is merely supposed to be the curator of air space; not the owner of it.

Jul. 10 2012 08:22 AM
lady from newyork

they are completely full of it. matching rent per apartment from hud with makes it marketrate rent collecting from all those units there gas and ligth bill is also beening paid by hud so times that and all the land in new york they own. the also geting money from the 21 delevpolments and section 8 money from the people who moved into those units via section 8 they don,t put money in to there repairs or delevpoments bearly any more!they should not get another cent!

Feb. 02 2012 01:18 PM
Reside Chicago Apartments

It all adds up - Chicago`s trendy apartments and popular Lakeview neighborhood + a redesigned apartment home + exceptional service and value = the perfect place for you to call home.

Jan. 20 2012 08:05 AM
GM from Harlem

I am for helping people in need. But it's obvious with a waiting list of over 150,000 for the NYC Housing Project that the system needs to be revised in order for it to survive.

First, I suggest that residents of NYC Housing Projects have a maximum of seven years, except those over 65 years old, to live in those developments so those in need can get off the waiting list.

I think seven years more than enough time for people to get themselves together off on their own. Right now, there seems to be no incentive to improve yourself economically to get out of the projects.

Jan. 12 2012 10:36 AM
DTorres from Manhattan

I work for the city, and some of my co-workers, live in Public Housing.
They live in the Manhattan, in the Robert Wagner houses, Chelsea Houses,
Grant Houses, Edenwald Houses in the Bronx, also in Brooklyn, NY in projects in that borough.

All of them, Kia, Helene, Mildred, Liz,
just to name four have harrowing stories
to tell of their life in the projects.
Those with grandchildren to raise, as well as kids in their teens,
are scared to death for their children.
Afraid the kids are going to get "jumped".
They complain of repairs not being made,
of being afraid to enter or leave their buildings at times.
They have a lot of concerns, but their overriding concern is safety,
they just do not feel safe for themselves or their children.
They have problems with the NYPD Stop & Frisk program, if one of their
kids are subjected to Stop & Frisk, but they have no problem whatsover
with the Police applying Stop & Frisk to other people in their projects.
They are glad of it, welcome it, if one of their family members is not
personally involved.
These are all working people, some of them are young in their 20's some
the majority are in their 40's and 50's.
They are afraid of where they live and where they live is the projects.

Jan. 10 2012 04:49 PM
Doris Ann Torres from Nathan Strauss Projects

344 East 28th Street, on first avenue,
across from Bellevue Hospital
is where I live.
This is a state owned building
administred by the New York City
Housing Authority=The Projects.
I pay $953.00 for 2 bedrooms.
Since 1986, I am a tenant here.
I work for the city, since 1981, my tour is
3 pm till 11 pm, so I arrive at 344, from work, between
11:30 pm and 11:34, depending on the train, sometimes I walk home.
Frequently, I have a lot of excessive, unnecessary mandatory overtime,
at my job, so in the wee hours of the morning, I am at work,watching everybody
sleep. I am not allowed to go home, until 5 am, they could keep me until 7am,
so I count myself lucky I'm allowed to leave at 5am.
Previous elevators were frightening,there are now new
elevators, still strewn with garbage, smelling of what my son calls,
the perfume of the projects, urine.

The Fire Department responded frequently to 344 E. 28th Street,
because of people stuck in the elevators.

Three elevators service this 26 story building,
usually just 2 are working, 1 is brand new, not yet

Sometimes, I meet up with people that are wearing orange sneakers,
like the kind issued to people under arrest by the Department of
Corrections. I have passed young people defecating in the stairwell,
they are very apologetic, saying they have nowhere else to go.
344 has installed surveillance cameras in the lobby, elevators, stairwell.
There are few repairs being carried out in the apartments

There were lot of working people
in the building like myself,
city workers.

It's my understanding, that now apartments are
being rented to be rented to section 8 tenants

The Section 8 tenants that moved in on my floor, have a lot of problems,
loud arguments, fighting, drugs, people that look you up and down, frequent
slamming of stairwell doors, it doesn't feel safe.

Right across from my building is the Bellevue Men's Shelter,
which currently houses over 20 registered sex offenders.
Just look it up, in the NYS Sexual Offender Registry site.
The site has photo, current address and what the charges

Because of where I work, I frequently see people that I have seen in
my building, under arrest for shoplifting in the immediate area,
like Gristedes, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, or drinking alcohol on the street.
Some of them have long criminal arrest records, going back decades,
for really horrific crimes, like robbery, rape even murder.
I don't know how they find their way to this neighborhood, because it is
too many of them, like this.

Just last week a private security guard was installed in the lobby
and that helps a lot, prevents predators from hanging out in the lobby,
like they have been doing.

I am a city worker, I support (3) people on my salary, I hope to retire
soon, when I am 62, which will be this year.
My income will be my city pension and my social security check.

I miss Lynn Samuels.

Jan. 10 2012 04:38 PM

I think the point is about equal cost for the tenants. If the cap is 30% of income for everyone, that's really fair.

Jan. 10 2012 01:59 PM

What happens when your housing complex is in a gentrified neighborhood? This must be a sick joke. There is a purpose of a rent cap. Rosie Mendez needs to not only advocate for better upkeep but for the rent cap to remain $2000 (which is a lot in the first place). If not, people won't be able to afford to live in the projects!! Where are they suppose to go in NYC?

Jan. 10 2012 12:49 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by