New York City public housing is the oldest and largest program of its kind in North America with close to 180,000 apartments in 336 developments officially housing over 400,000 residents. Unofficially, the public housing system makes it possible for over a half million low-income New Yorkers to remain in an increasingly unaffordable city. With so much at stake, those who consider themselves stewards of public housing welcome the existence of federal regulations (known as the 964 regs) that enable residents to participate in the betterment of their developments as well as in the policymaking process that affects public housing throughout the city.
Broadly speaking, resident participation has been shown to lead to a number of key benefits, including: better building conditions and quality of life, more satisfaction with living conditions overall, the feelingof empowerment gained through enhanced control over one's living situation, and the building of community. This, in turn, has a positive impact beyondthese immediate benefits to residents. It makes it easier for landlords to maintain their properties and contributes to the overall well being of American cities by building vibrant, sustainable communities.
This research set out to explore whether or not the current regulations and structures around which public housing resident participation in NYC is currently organized, result in the meaningful and democratic processes that bring about these benefits.