HPD, DHS and Various City Agencies Struggling with Serious Staffing Issues: Report – Bronx Times

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As New Yorkers reel in the throes of a housing crisis in the city, policy experts warn the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and other city agencies are in crisis which is unique to them.

According to a guidance note from the New York Housing Conference, since the pandemic, HPD – which has seen its staffing levels 7% lower than before COVID-19 – is 16% below the budgeted headcount.

Housing analysts warn that without more staff, much of the work HPD does, including approving affordable housing projects and providing resources to tenants in need, will be significantly slowed.

More than 67,250 new apartments have been created or financed in New York City from 2014 to 2021, but the siting of these affordable housing projects has left areas like the northeast Bronx devoid of new affordable housing.

“Mayor (Eric) Adams inherited a staffing crisis at HPD and related agencies that affects the production and preservation of affordable housing,” said Brendan Cheney, director of policy and communications at New York Housing. Conference. “While agency management has made adding staff a priority, they can do more and there are policies beyond their control that City Hall needs to change. Our report outlines steps they can take to quickly address the crisis and equip the agency with the staff it needs to carry out its mission. They need to find flexibility inside and outside the civil service system, increase staff compensation and workplace flexibility to be more competitive and cut unnecessary bureaucracy. In the face of a severe housing crisis, it is more important than ever that HPD is complete. »

Staffing at development offices, where the agency reviews and completes production of affordable housing, is down 12% since the pandemic and 24% below what the city budget allows. Additionally, there are also major shortages within the Office of Housing Preservation, which includes the agency’s code enforcement staff, which is down 7% since the pandemic and 18% from less than expected.

Mayor Adams told the Bronx Times that although he inherited the understaffed departments, he is dedicated to fixing the “dysfunction” of the city and its systems.

“We are doing a full analysis of what we have done with housing. We are looking to find out why is it taking so long? Why are we re-traumatizing people by having them tell the stories over and over again when we have the data? We look at what units are available. How many people have coupons that are being ignored? Adams said in a statement. “So there is a full analysis of the housing dysfunction in this city…I inherited a broken city with broken systems and we can either put a band-aid on those broken systems or go to the heart and fix them. . I’m going to the core to fix them, so whoever the mayor is, we’re going to fix this town’s dysfunction.

The city’s proposed budget seeks to increase HPD’s workforce by several dozen to support operations and the mayor’s commitment of $5 billion in new affordable housing capital – including $3.6 billion for HPD – carries the city’s capital investment in affordable housing totaling $22 billion, the highest in city history.

Mayor Eric Adams inherited a host of understaffed departments such as the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Homeless Services, and the Human Resources Administration since taking office. Ed Reed / Mayor’s Office of Photography

In January 2020, there were 2,410 HPD employees. Now there are 2,287 left, with a loss of more than 120 employees in just over two years. Although HPD’s staffing budget funds the agency to have 2,621 positions, housing experts say the agency is losing people faster than it can replace them.

“Make no mistake, the staff shortage is inefficient and hurts government. While there may be budget savings from understaffing, it will cost the city more money overall,” the New York Housing Conference said in a statement. “Affordable housing production is slowing, which means there will be fewer desperately needed affordable housing units. It also means housing services for homeless people are understaffed and people stay in expensive shelters longer than necessary.

New York Housing Conference officials made a few recommendations to Adams, including greater hiring autonomy for hiring managers within HPD, better minimum wages for city agency employees, and more creative recruitment.

HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr., former Bronx Borough President, noted during a congressional hearing on the Twin Parks fire in April that the department has faced attrition issues. , especially among housing inspectors. According to Adams’ appointee, HPD only had 287 inspectors on the payroll to fill a budget of 429 inspector positions.

HPD is not the only city agency struggling with understaffing, as the Department of Town Planning (DCP) has 60 fewer people on staff than its budget aids, 18% less than it is. authorized.

The Human Resources Administration (HRA) and Department of Homeless Services (DHS) offices have also been affected by staffing shortages.

DHS is understaffed by 118 people, 6% less than it is funded for in its budget. And HRA is understaffed by 334 people, 15% less than budgeted, according to the New York Housing Conference policy report.

A city council report on HRA’s budget noted the staffing shortage and attributed it to a hiring freeze in 2019 and that attrition continues to outpace the agency’s ability to hire new staff.

The future of affordable housing could get even murkier without an extension of a developer tax break known as 421-a — which expires June 15 — an incentive Adams is a fan of and Governor Kathy Hochul wants. edit.

Progressives are not fans, however, calling the $1.8 billion tax break an unnecessary giveaway for developers who have done little to promote affordable housing.

Contact Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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