By NAYELIS VARGAS
A housing expert on Thursday urged city officials to model their approach to public housing in New York on London, a city that gives residents a say in what gets built or fixed in their neighborhoods as well as who can do the job best.
During the hour long Zoom webinar, Executive Director for the Citizens Housing and Planning Council Jessica Katz spoke about her experience while traveling to London last year to meet with Public Housing officials.
“We bought together a diverse group of state leaders.. to come together and learn about the policies that they bought together from afar,” said Katz.
The meeting showed several differences between the way The New York City Housing Authority handles public housing in comparison to how government officials in London handle theirs.
City Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuels of Brooklyn, who traveled to London with Katz last year, said that she believed if NYCHA and De Blasio implemented London’s strategy, thousands of New York’s residents would have suffered less from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Things would be different if the residents had more of a voice, more leadership,” she said.
While in London the two women said they were stunned to see the city mayor pass the mic to a public housing resident at at a meeting to discuss plans to improve their communities.
Unlike in New York, residents in London are allowed to meet with prospective architects, for example.
Unlike New York, London has 33 housing authorities, which are tasked with helping different sectors throughout the city which prompts speedier assistance.
Clare Devine, an architect from Arc-Atelier UK, a creative consultation company that helps public housing sectors develop residential areas, descraibed some strategies she’s used over the years to help London’s public housing hesidents.
“We needed to foster conversations and build trust.,” she said. “We had interviews and home visits with people to learn better about the place. We also needed to learn their language and how their community works.”
Both Katz and the councilwoman emphasized that there were only fifteen months left under Mayor de Blasio’s administration, and that the mayor and NYCHA needed to work harder to help public housing residents.
“There’s been very little progress in housing with this administration,” said Ampry-Samuels.