Unlocking the potential: A case study of affordable housing and pro bono partnership


Nearly one in fourteen New Yorkers live in apartments managed or subsidized by the New York City Housing Authority.

But with disinvestment from all levels of government, NYCHA has been unable to keep homes in good shape and to connect residents to community resources and economic opportunities.

“Aggressive action is necessary to deliver to NYCHA’s residents the resources and services they have long deserved, and to sustain the Authority for the long term,” according to NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye. Therefore, NYCHA developed a long-term plan to change fundamentally how they operate in order to create safe, clean, connected communities.

In the midst of planning, the non-partisan nonprofit Civic Consulting offered pro bono assistance. And the first area of collaboration has been to develop a ground-floor leasing strategy.

courtesy LEVENBETTS 2015

With 328 developments around the city, NYCHA has tremendous space on the ground floor, in fact, 2.5 million square feet that’s non-residential. Roughly a tenth is zoned commercial, and those storefronts enjoy very low vacancy. The other spaces are often under-utilized or off line altogether: former laundry rooms, management offices, community centers, storage, and more.

As NYCHA leadership – including the Chair and the Vice President of Real Estate Services – discussed these assets with Civic Consulting, it became clear that NYCHA alone did not have the resources to repair and reprogram these spaces. New partnerships would be needed.

The question is, who has both the interest and the resources to unlock the potential of these spaces?

Read the case study (PDF).