From the NY Times:
In a sign of the toll the dismal economy has taken on working families in New York, more than 1 in 10 households living in public housing owe at least one month in back rent, a rise of nearly 50 percent over the past year.
Though the city has always had to deal with a number of public housing tenants who are chronically late with their rent, housing officials are now confronting a significant rise in longtime tenants who never before missed a payment but are falling behind, in many cases because they have lost their jobs.
Across the city, tenants of nearly 22,000 public housing apartments, or about 12 percent of the total, owed back rent as of Aug. 31, according to the New York City Housing Authority, which runs the largest public housing system in the United States. The comparable figure in August 2009 was about 15,200.
“When you have, like any landlord, a laser-beam focus on rent collection, you sometimes miss the bigger picture,” said John B. Rhea, the housing authority’s chairman. “What’s happening is that we’re seeing substantial increases in the number of people not paying their rent on time.”
The problem is the worst in Queens, where the number of households owing back rent increased nearly 70 percent between August 2009 and last month, to 2,424 from 1,431. In six of the public housing developments in the western part of the borough, more tenants missed payments than anyplace else in the city, according to Housing Authority statistics. At the Astoria Houses, for example, the number more than doubled, to 157 households from 64; the latest number is 14 percent of the development’s 1,103 apartments.