Eric Adams proposed staff cuts to city housing agencies

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“We continue to be very aggressive in seeking to hire our plan reviewers and inspectors,” said Sharon Neal, DOB deputy commissioner for finance and administration. “Unfortunately, we’re just not seeing the return we normally would have on an annual basis to fill these positions.”

The Department of Buildings, which handles inspections as well as planning and construction of New York’s residential and commercial properties, is expected to lose 81 positions over the next year and increase its current vacancy rate of 21%.

Bronx Councilwoman Pierina Ana Sanchez, chair of the council’s housing and buildings committee, described the DOB’s staffing challenges as “really troubling” and she pointed to their real-world consequences.

“Hearing that there is a 20% vacancy rate for inspectors, an 11% vacancy rate for plan reviewers… it is truly troubling, especially in light of the effort required to carry out proactive inspections and efforts to keep our tenants safe and our commercial tenants safe,” Sanchez said.

Testimony from leaders of the Housing Preservation Department, which develops and manages the city’s affordable housing stock, heightened concerns about Adams’ proposed staff cuts. HPD is expected to lose 28 full-time positions over the next year and increase its vacancy rate by 14%.

“Frankly, any commissioner who says he wasn’t disappointed with a reduction, that won’t be truthful,” said Adolfo Carrión Jr., HPD commissioner. “Losing 28 full-time employees is not a good thing.”

Carrión estimated there were more than 100 vacancies at his agency due to Covid-19 staff reductions. He said his agency, which has created or preserved more than 200,000 affordable housing units since 2014, stands to lose $18 million in municipal funding over the next five years.

He described New York as experiencing “an accessibility crisis”.

“We need you to plead to help us,” Carrión told the council. “We can’t get there from here without the resources.”

Non-competitive hiring

DOB and HPD leaders have expressed concern that their agencies cannot compete for the limited pool of qualified candidates in a competitive job market, especially for crucial positions such as building inspectors and chefs. of project.

“We continue to struggle with this demographic of skilled people,” Neal said. “The pool of qualified candidates is shrinking, overall, and we are competing with private construction companies.

Carrión said his department has significant vacancies to fill and he is working with the Office of Management and Budget to fill them because “they know we have positions that are not competitive in the job market. work”.

A dramatic impact

The growth in job vacancies and the hiring challenges at both agencies have real-world implications for New York real estate developers.

“We deal with DOB all the time. They are exceptionally critical,” said David Schwartz, director and co-founder of Slate Property Group, a residential and commercial developer. “You can’t start a project and you can’t finish a project without them.”

Schwartz described his business model as one that requires working with the DOB throughout an entire project. “Not a week goes by,” he said, as his company failed to consult the DOB. He said the department’s staffing challenges will impact his projects and those of other developers.

“It’s obviously a challenge because New York is already complicated to navigate,” he said. “Without having qualified people at DOB, it could lead to more delays for projects.”

Others in the housing industry have pointed to HPD’s crucial role in awarding new projects to affordable housing developers, processing building site applications, and ensuring empty units are filled through systems. lottery and benchmark within the city’s homeless services industry.

Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, an affordable housing nonprofit, said the number of HPD employees has decreased by 123 people since January 2020. There is now a shortage of chiefs of project and attorneys, potentially slowing the affordable supply pipeline and causing delays in unit fills, she said.

“It has some pretty big implications,” Fee said. “They don’t assign new projects to developers, who are actively looking for sites.”

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