The aim of this project, Changing the Narrative, is to reframe our discussion around the public housing program in New York City in order to realize and center the good it does for the public. There are thousands of New Yorkers who call these developments home and depend on public housing as a means of survival in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Public housing helps residents avoid needing to choose between rent, food, or medicine since rents are set at 30% of income. It provides stability for low-income families and seniors, access to affordable housing, and opportunity for upward mobility. It also prevents homelessness. Public housing produces valuable social good, and yet we continue as a society to stigmatize residents, their communities, and this once-popular program. Changing the Narrative focuses on questions of policy (funding & legislation) as well as the frames that shape our collective understanding of public housing as a matter of public policy and as a place that thousands call “home” to understand how we got here.

There is a huge story to be told about the funding of the public housing program, how much it has decreased over the last few decades, and why. The funding flow encounters many obstacles and challenges before it ever gets into the hands of the authority that manages it, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Meanwhile, NYCHA is governed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD is funded by Congress and Congress sets the budget in line with legislative priorities. All of these elements profoundly affect the current state of affairs of the program.

Currently, the public housing program in New York City is in crisis mode and government officials are trying to reposition several thousand units in order to raise money for dire repairs. Many people are living in hazardous conditions where their health and safety is at risk. These issues are indeed critical and need immediate attention. In our attempt to parse these issues of management, operation, funding, and legislation, we have curated this timeline to exhibit the impact each has had on the issues that plague the program, residents, and communities.