NYCHA residents struggling with utility outages could pay less rent with Astoria lawmaker’s bill that passed Senate

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The Astoria Houses. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

The State Senate has passed a bill that would alleviate rent costs for New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) tenants who experience long-term water, gas, electric and heat outages. 

The NYCHA Utility Accountability Act was introduced by Senator Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris following a gas outage in Astoria Houses last year, which took nearly three months to restore.

“Months-long utility outages are unacceptable for any New Yorker, whether in private or public housing,” Gianaris said. “NYCHA residents should not be expected to pay full rent, which typically includes utilities, when they are not receiving the service.”

NYCHA provides affordable housing to more than 400,000 New Yorkers across all five boroughs but often struggles with utility outages. There are more than 500 NYCHA residents without heat or hot water services as of June 11, according to NYCHA’s database.

Gianaris’ bill would reduce rent for every day of the month that a tenant is without service. Deductions could be up to 10 percent of a month’s rent with a minimum of $75. This bill also provides financial incentives for fixing services more quickly. 

Rockaways Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson said he will work to get the bill passed in the Assembly. 

“NYCHA anchors working-class families by facilitating access to critical social and community services — and our neighbors living in NYCHA housing deserve reliable utilities and elected public servants that will hold the agency to a high standard,” Anderson said. “This reimagining and reform to NYCHA through legislation is in direct alignment with a continued push for an $80 million investment in NYCHA infrastructure at the federal level.”

Carol Wilkins, president of the Ravenswood Tenants Association supports the bill, saying NYCHA tenants deserve safe and reliable housing like everyone else. 

“No one in private housing would expect or tolerate months, or years, long utility outages and that expectation should extend to public housing, as well,” Wilkins said. “The accountability is the support residents and tenant leadership needs to ensure work is done expeditiously.”

The Assembly will vote on the bill before it reaches Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk to be signed into law.