The federal housing official responsible for the New York City region says she plans to move into public housing to spotlight inhumane conditions, but if she really wanted to spotlight inhumanity in housing, she’d move big money out of precious city housing stock.
Longtime Trump aid Lynne Patton told the press recently that she intends to move out of Trump Plaza, where she lives, and into public housing to cast a spotlight on the inhumane conditions in which some city residents live.
Her target is NYCHA. The New York City Housing Authority is one of the nation’s biggest, and in many ways, the program’s flagship, so it’s no surprise it comes in for lots of grief. Some of it is well deserved. Federal investigators have found mold and rodents and lead in New York public housing. Over 25,000 residents spent a very frigid Thanksgiving weekend without heat and hot water, some going for water from a hydrant in the street.
But Patton moving in for a month on her $161,000 salary won’t shed a spotlight on inhumanity as much as on herself and on the Trump agenda, which, like that of most Republicans, is about promoting the private at the expense of the public. Which is ironic given that Tump’s money—which is to say his father’s money—came to him from a public housing grant. Vilifying public agencies is part of the pro-privatization agenda. So is underfunding them. Donald Trump’s first budget proposed zeroing out money for capital improvements and cutting money for public housing operations by 45%.
So it’s no surprise that Trump’s HUD would be grandstanding about local public mismanagement. But progressives are calling for more—not less—local control and decision-making as a way to address NYCHA’s woes, not selling their properties off to owners who are even less accountable and even more remote.
So I have a better idea. If we really want to spotlight inhumanity in housing, how about we let Patton move out and let some poor residents move in. Not only to Trump Plaza to see how HUD officials live, but into the 75,000 apartments that are sitting empty, according to a recent city census—many of them just real estate investments for the rich and super rich. There are two available directly across from me in downtown Manhattan. They’ve been sitting there dark for all but a night or two all year. Empty and costly, around the clock.
You want to spotlight inhumanity in housing? How about housing like that, that’s just for money, not for people. Let’s spotlight that, and then consider something like a pied-a-terre tax so that wealthy people or investors would have a reason to share or get out.