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Opinion | New York’s Public Housing Isn’t Getting Better

The failures are frustrating. New York City, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, has increased its contribution to the housing authority substantially. In fiscal year 2014, the last budget negotiated under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the housing authority’s operating fund received $17 million from the city. In the current fiscal year, which began July 1, Mr. de Blasio has allocated $288 million to the authority.

Yet Mr. de Blasio allowed key roles at the agency to go unfilled, or to be filled by interim officials, for months. These included the position of chair until last month, when Mr. de Blasio selected Gregory Russ, who led the Minneapolis public housing authority, for the job. Until this month, it also included the head of the housing authority’s lead hazard unit.

Mr. de Blasio also appears to have stinted the public housing work force in general, even as he has increased the number of employees elsewhere in city government by the tens of thousands. There are now 11,484 employees at the housing authority, down from 15,216 in 2003. Of the present total, just 990 are maintenance workers, according to city officials.

Decades ago, each development had its own plumbers, repairmen, exterminators and other maintenance workers. But after years of federal disinvestment and mismanagement, the work was centralized, forcing residents to wait months at a time for repairs to basic services like heat and hot water.

The city and state will need to invest significantly more in the authority’s operations budget to hire more maintenance workers.

An audit from City Comptroller Scott Stringer released on Friday found that the authority lost track of warranties, forcing it to pay for repairs it didn’t have to, and that it failed to properly maintain 19 roofs, possibly voiding manufacturer warranties and costing the agency $24.6 million.

The housing authority is in dire need of rapid reforms to increase accountability, at every level.

Mr. de Blasio will need to work quickly to negotiate savvier labor agreements with the housing authority’s skilled unions, not only to find savings but also to change work rules that can make it unduly difficult to fire employees or hold them accountable.

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