Dozens of city-owned homes intended for low-income New Yorkers have sat vacant for years, sometimes for at least a decade, with some attracting squatters while others become a blight in their neighborhoods.
But after years of neglect and failed strategies to deal with the properties, including stalled plans to sell them off, the New York City Housing Authority says it has a new approach to rehabilitate the 63 single-family homes by partnering with two groups -- Habitat for Humanity New York City and Restored Homes -- that have proven track records in fixing up houses.
First-time homeowners would then get an opportunity to move in.
"The whole point is to stabilize communities," said Nicole Ferreira, senior director of real estate development at NYCHA. "We don't want the vacant homes hanging out there."
But she agreed the homes have been neglected for far too long. "There has been a stall over the last 10 years," she said.
The houses, located in Queens and Brooklyn, were foreclosed properties acquired by NYCHA from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 through 1982. They are the last remaining properties from a portfolio of 730 that were largely sold off and repurposed for low-income families. Yet these lingering homes have gone years without occupants and their condition shows it.
"The age and condition of the houses has deteriorated over time, rendering the houses unsuitable for continued operation as well as creating a negative influence on their neighborhoods," the NYCHA board stated in a resolution in July 2014.
Habitat for Humanity and Restored Homes are expected to be charged $1 for each property, with the understanding that they would find financing and lead the rehabilitation of each. Habitat for Humanity said it received 13 NYCHA homes in 2012, and that five have been renovated and are ready for families to move in; eight are under construction.
Some policymakers said finding a solution for these homes helps combat the affordable housing crisis, even if there are a relatively small group.