25 October 2010

Grantee Report Reveals Critical Shortcomings in Use of ARRA Funds

Ms. Foundation grantee Community Voices Heard is holding the New York City Housing Authority's feet to the fire over stimulus money that was intended to save public housing and help put its residents to work, but as yet has done little of either.

In 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Housing Authority was awarded $423 million to make essential repairs to Section 3 public housing, and to provide badly needed job opportunities to some of New York's more than 30,000 unemployed public housing residents. But almost two years later, few repairs have actually been undertaken and less than 7 percent of the jobs created by these planned construction projects have been awarded to the residents they were intended to support -- despite the fact that federal regulations stipulate that a full 30 percent of these jobs must be awarded to housing development residents.

In their new report "Bad Arithmetic: The Failure of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Recovery Funds to Create Jobs for Local Residents," [pdf] Community Voices Heard uncovers some troubling trends regarding how this stimulus funding -- 60 percent of which must be spent by March 17 of 2011 -- is (or is not) being used. Based on a community audit of more than 300 public housing residents in eight developments across New York City, they found that,
  • 81% of public housing residents were unaware that ARRA funds had been allocated to their residence
  • Only 1% of those surveyed were working on a Section 3 project
  • Just 7% of those surveyed knew anyone working on a Section 3 project
Moreover, the audit found that that "most NYCHA residents were unaware of federal regulations requiring contractors to hire residents when they receive money from HUD, and the vast majority had not seen or heard about job opportunities for the construction planned for their buildings."

To highlight these discrepancies and draw attention to the need for public housing residents to be more broadly included in the jobs created by ARRA funding, Community Voices Heard (CVH) held a press conference last week to insist, among other things, that "30% of the hours worked on renovation projects be done by workers who are residents" going forward.

As one of the Ms. Foundation's Gender, Jobs and Justice grantees, CVH understands that the ongoing economic crisis presents a critical moment of opportunity to advance social change. By putting those who are directly affected by the economic crisis and most marginalized from the centers of power (often women) at the forefront of creating powerful solutions, CVH is working to build a truly "new" economy -- one that takes seriously the needs of women and families, and values communities' contributions to solving the problems at hand.

Learn more about how CVH is pushing to improve and save New York City's public housing developments through their important Public Housing Campaign.

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