Blueprint and the Housing Preservation Trust: A “Public-to-Public” transfer?

Dec 2021-Jan 2022
By Alonso Espinosa-Dominguez

Close to 400,000 people live in the 316 public housing developments in New York City. Plans like the Blueprint for Change aim to privatize these properties and gentrify the city.

Public Housing residents across the country have started speaking out and fighting back
against privatization schemes, under which banks and real estate companies will take control of their homes. As this opposition grows, politicians, government officials, and developers are scrambling to find ways to obscure their plans to destroy public housing.

There is no better example of this than New York City’s Blueprint for Change. The Blueprint for Change was introduced in 2020 by New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and supposedly “progressive” politicians like Julia Salazar (a state senator from Brooklyn). NYCHA promised that Blueprint for Change would be a “public-to-public” transfer of housing properties which would keep NYCHA management at converted properties and prevent the types of issues that came with programs like RAD.

But the truth isn’t so rosy. This was really a bait-and-switch, and Blueprint for Change is basically just a privatization scheme like any other.

The way Blueprint would work is as follows: the NY state legislature would pass a law creating a new public corporation, the “Public Housing Preservation Trust.” This trust would be empowered to:

  1. Acquire NYCHA properties by entering into 99-year ground lease for the land those properties exist on and converting the units into Section 8 units. {Section 605}
  2. Obtain Section 8 Tenant Protection Vouchers from HUD and use those to create bonds to attract private investors.
  3. “Form or participate as members or partners of private entities” {Section 604, subdivision 13} such as for-profit and non-profit corporations, housing development fund corporations, and limited partnerships. These private entities the Trust is allowed to form would have as members not just the Trust but also big banks and other investors.
  4. Fully or partially transfer property in its possession to other entities “by any method, necessary or convenient for the exercise of its functions.” {Section 604, subdivision 6} In particular, this means the Trust could transfer ownership of NYCHA buildings to the new private entities it forms with investors, turning those investors into partial owners of the buildings and entitling them to rental revenue. So much for “public housing stays public.”
  5. “Enter into agreements with the NYCHA—or other entities—for the provision of management, maintenance and other services.” {Section 604, subdivision 9} Notice that, despite the pro-Blueprint talking points about NYCHA management, there is nothing actually preventing the Trust from hiring private management companies to take over, just like with RAD or other privatization schemes.
Members of the NYC UFAD branch, along with other groups, have been actively protesting and exposing the sick reality behind the “Blueprint for Change

Resident groups across NYC saw right through the rhetoric, and waged an intense struggle against the Blueprint. Some important victories have been won already. The New York State Legislature was stopped from passing the law to create the Trust and allow the Blueprint to move forward. But this is only temporary. The Blueprint bill is not totally dead, it is just being held “in committee” and it is just a matter of time before they try to pass it again.

Other schemes, like the Build Back Better plan, which the Biden administration recently failed to get through Congress, would pour tons of funding into Tenant Protection Vouchers, laying the groundwork for an expansion of Blueprint-type plans and other privatization schemes in NYC and across the country.

This makes it all the more important to expose the lies, manipulation, and PR glitz around plans like the Blueprint for Change and expose them for what they are: privatization schemes designed to gentrify neighborhoods, push people out of the city, and funnel money to the big banks and developers.

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