A Trump administration official is planning to move from her Trump Tower condo into public housing in New York City to highlight inadequate conditions – even as the administration proposes deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Lynne Patton, the regional head of HUD in New York and New Jersey, announced the planned move to the Grant Houses in Harlem in late November and told the Washington Post that she was in her Trump Tower apartment watching the film “Crazy Rich Asians” when she read a NY Post headline highlighting NYCHA issues.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks that this is no longer okay,” Patton told the Washington Post. “It was not okay for me to preside over the largest housing crisis in the nation from the warmth and comfort of my own safe and sanitary apartment while NYCHA residents continue to suffer the most inhumane conditions.”
Patton was appointed to the $161,000 a year position in August, despite holding no experience in housing. Her background, according to a resume obtained by the Washington Post, was as an aide to the Trump family and an event planner. A condo at Trump Tower averages $1,741 per square foot, according to The New York Times.
The conditions in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments have been notoriously substandard, as more and more tenants are calling to light issues surrounding lack of heat in the water, busted elevators and even lead paint hazards.
The Grant Houses, at which Patton plans to stay, had 4,500 residents go without heat and hot water over Thanksgiving. Just this past weekend, residents of NYCHA’s Patterson Houses lost water and used water from fire hydrants, according to a report from CBS, and Charlene Nimmons, the CEO of public housing advocacy group Public Housing Communities Inc. reported on Twitter that Wyckoff Gardens has no running water on Tuesday.
— Charlene Nimmons (@CharleneNimmons) December 4, 2018
In June, a judge ordered NYCHA to fork over $2.2 billion to address lead issues and make capital improvements, after the department allegedly lied about the abhorrent living conditions.
Despite the acknowledgment of these issues from Patton, her boss, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, has floated the idea of asking tenants to make the repairs themselves.
The program, which was sharply criticized when it was first discussed, would take part of the monthly subsidy given to renters and put it in an escrow account associated with the unit. All of the routine maintenance associated with the unit would come out of that account, which would continue to grow, Carson said. If the individual leaves public assistance, the money would eventually be available for a down payment.
Patton’s action also comes after the Trump administration earlier this year proposed a budget that would cut HUD spending by nearly $9 million, including cuts to the Public Housing Capital Fund and the Public Housing Operating Fund. The administration has also proposed privatizing the management of public housing.
The U.S. Congress has yet to pass Trump’s proposed budget, however, and HUD, along with most U.S. Government offices have been funded by continuing resolution.
At press time, HUD had not responded to a request for comment on how much the move would cost, if additional security would be required at the Grant Houses and if Patton or HUD would be paying for the apartment. Inman will update if we her back.