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‘Over Income’ NYCHA Tenants Get Reprieve on Looming Rent Hikes

The federal housing agency hit pause on its decision after getting pushback from the nation’s large public housing authorities, of which NYCHA is the biggest.

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A mother walks with her son through the Queensbridge Houses NYCHA complex, Oct. 23, 2020.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that public housing tenants making higher salaries would be deemed “over income” and have to pay more in monthly rent.

But on Monday HUD put the brakes on that plan, announcing the rent hikes for “over income” tenants are now on hold.

After HUD issued its initial decision, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) mailed notices to 290 households that their rents would be going up.

For one longtime tenant at Fulton Houses in Chelsea who got one of the “over income” notices, the news that HUD was pausing the rent hike provided a temporary breath of relief.

“I’m glad,” she said. “But it was an emotional roller coaster because I did not expect a $700 rent increase.”

The tenant, who spoke to THE CITY on the condition that her name not be revealed, is a 47-year-old registered nurse who says she became “over income” because she worked long hours and got paid more during the pandemic.

“I’m being penalized for that,” she said. “Some of that was crisis pay. I had to watch people die during COVID. Because it was so dangerous and nobody knew, we got a lot more money. I went to the hospital. I worked with the homeless.”

She received a notice saying that her $1,435 rent for a one-bedroom apartment would jump to $2,100, but she wasn’t clear on how NYCHA was calculating her income. She said NYCHA households can deduct tuition for members but that doesn’t include the heads of households, and so she can’t deduct the out-of-pocket expenses she’s paying for a masters program she’s enrolled in.

Two weeks ago HUD officials told THE CITY the “final rule requires all PHAs [public housing authorities] to fully implement the over-income requirements by June 14.”

Monday’s decision by HUD halts implementation of the new rules until Jan. 5, 2025, according to the Council for Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), a nonprofit representing the nation’s biggest housing authorities.

According to the group’s website, the CLPHA urged HUD to hold off on the change. David Greer, as spokesperson for the group, declined to discuss CLPHA’s concerns about implementing the new rules this month.

NYCHA is by far the nation’s biggest public housing authority, with 172,000 apartments and 450,000 tenants. Lisa Bova-Hiatt, NYCHA’s interim chief executive officer, sits on CLPHA’s board of directors.

Olga Alvarez, spokesperson for HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, declined to discuss the new deadline or explain why HUD decided to postpone the “over income” rent hike protocols, which had been in the works since 2019 but weren’t finalized until May.

“HUD is aware of the concerns that have been raised by CLPHA and others. HUD is considering how to address those concerns and intends to issue guidance for housing agencies soon,” Alvarez wrote to THE CITY.

NYCHA declined to comment.

Under the new rules, tenants who make over a certain amount would be sent new leases that remove them from public housing and require them to pay “fair market rent.” The rent is based on 120% of the area median income as set last year by HUD, so it’s less than market rate but more than NYCHA rent, and it would rise annually as HUD updates median income calculations.

The pay that would make a tenant renting a one-bedroom “over income” would be $112,000; the trigger for a family renting a four-bedroom unit would be $160,000, according to HUD’s protocols. Current rent levels would jump by about 25%, with NYCHA’s flat rent of $1,700 rising to $2,170, and flat rent of $2,693 jumping to $3,316.

About two weeks ago NYCHA sent out notices to 290 households they’d determined have been “over income” for the last two years, notifying them that they had to accept new “fair market rent” leases within the next 60 days or face termination of tenancy.

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