News » CHPC hosts visitors from the UK to share lessons about social housing

From May 21-23rd, 2019, CHPC hosted a small group from the UK to share lessons from their experiences in regenerating their public housing over the past 30-40 years. Over the course of three days, CHPC hosted meetings with city hall, a city council member, tenant leaders and a held public panel event. Each meeting provided an opportunity for New York City policy-makers and tenants to hear about how the UK solved an even larger crisis than the one NYCHA faces today.

CHPC hosted an affordable housing provider from Notting Hill Genesis, to talk about the different ways the affordable housing industry plays a part in restoring and preserving public housing. CHPC also brought over a tenant organizer, from Tpas- tenant engagement experts, and a public housing resident who is the Co-Chair of the Woodberry Down Community Organization, to share about how tenants are kept at the center of decision making processes and the roles they both play to ensure that living conditions and standards are upheld.

City officials and policy-makers got to hear firsthand how both the affordable housing industry and tenants were given elevated roles to help solve the UK’s public housing conditions. Geoff Bell, Co-Chair of the Woodberry Down Community Organization, spoke about how tenants have an equal seat at the table with developers and the housing authority in deciding what happens to their housing. He shared examples of how tenants are key decision makers, not just consulted, on long-term planning goals and even in the nitty-gritty details of unit layouts.

Jenny Osbourne, Chief Executive of Tpas, shared best practices for engaging tenants in meaningful ways, including building up the technical expertise and capacity of tenants and how early engagement can lead to a relationship built on trust and compromise. Jenny was honest about how tenant engagement takes time, financial backing, and compromise, but ultimately makes sense for a business’s bottom line.

Kate Davies, Chief Executive of Knotting Hill Genesis, gave her perspective on how having tenants, political leadership, and developers all at the table together, everyone is able to come up with winning solutions to solve big problems. Kate also emphasized that the best people to make decisions about their homes are the people living in them, and that as an affordable housing provider it makes business sense for an organization to always include tenants in conversations about their homes.

The group was also provided two opportunities to tour NYCHA developments across the city. In each tour, NYCHA tenants were generous to show us around their homes and their communities. Tenants echoed the desire to be included in the decision making process, and for ways to have meaningful conversations about the future of their housing. It is clear that tenants are engaged and informed and are eager to lend their expertise.

Visitors also met with city-officials including Deputy Mayor for Housing & Economic Development, Vicki Been, City Council Member & Chair of the Public Housing Committee, Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Interim NYCHA Chair, Kathryn Garcia. City officials heard from each visitor about the different strategies used to engage tenants in meaningful decision making and the menu of options available to the housing authority and city to improve the standards for tenants.

At the end of the week, all three visitors along with CHPC’s Deputy Director, Sarah Watson, gave presentations at a public event at Prince George Ballroom. The event was attended by over 150 developers, architects, NYCHA residents, and city and state policy-makers. After an introduction about the public housing revolution in the UK by Sarah Watson, attendees heard from each guest about their major lessons from London about how dynamics can be changed so that the standard of living for public housing residents can be vastly improved.

CHPC is thankful to each participant for spending a week with New Yorkers, sharing their lessons from the UK. Despite the horrible housing conditions faced by the UK, they found a way to move forward, and CHPC is hopeful that NYC can learn from the tools that made such a change possible. Bold new directions for public housing have been done in many places and CHPC hopes that all of our participants from meetings and events can see that change is possible!