NYCHA residents attend a job fair in the Bronx. Having access to job training opportunities was named as the most important program by NYCHA residents in a phone survey held for the Plan to Preserve Public Housing.

We asked; you responded. NYCHA residents said that they are satisfied with many features of living in public housing. They told us that their concerns are focused on their buildings, rather than their apartments or developments. They feel that the services NYCHA provides are important. And they communicated a strong need for more timely service for repairs. These are the key findings from a phone survey NYCHA held as part of the Plan to Preserve Public Housing, the Authority’s comprehensive plan that will serve as a vital roadmap for the next five years.

More than 1,000 residents and more than 600 Section 8 participants, chosen at random, took part in the phone survey, which measured residents’ levels of customer satisfaction. The survey was designed and run by professors at Baruch College. The participants represented a sample of NYCHA’s many groups of different ethnicities, ages and neighborhoods.

NYCHA also held 16 focus groups, which encouraged residents to discuss their attitudes about their experiences as a public housing resident or as a Section 8 voucher holder as well as their hopes for the future. The focus groups were made up of more than 140 residents from various backgrounds, including Resident Association leaders, NYCHA resident employees, participants in NYCHA programs like community centers or Green Committees and Section 8 voucher holders. There were groups held in Spanish, Russian and Cantonese. The focus group discussions were led by a research firm so participants would feel comfortable speaking freely.

"The results from the phone survey and focus groups will go a long way in helping NYCHA shape the Plan to Preserve Public Housing," said NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea. "As we form the direction of public and Section 8 housing for the next five years, we need to be sure the plan properly addresses the needs of the families we serve. The survey and focus groups help us understand the issues that are most important to our customers."

While about two-thirds of public housing residents were satisfied with the overall condition of their apartment and development, only a little more than half were satisfied with their building. This was based partially on how safe residents feel in their building. Many resident concerns were focused on the quality and timeliness of maintenance and repairs.

The biggest priority for residents who took part in the focus groups was keeping developments clean, safe and functional. This included addressing the time it takes for repairs, and the quality of the repairs; day-to-day maintenance; security; the enforcement of rules and regulations; and how potential residents are screened for eligibility. They also talked about the different needs of their families and neighbors and how important it was that people were able to access the services they needed, whether it is day care or meals for seniors.

The phone survey found that residents showed a level of satisfaction in many aspects of their life in public housing. Most respondents said their apartment was a good value. A vast majority placed importance on having on-site support, especially having a management office, senior center and community center in their development. Access to job training and GED programs were the services that residents considered most important.

NYCHA already is working to address many of the ideas and concerns raised by residents in the phone survey and focus groups. The Authority is dedicating $31 million over the next five years specifically toward reducing its longstanding maintenance and repair needs. Through a new initiative developed by the Department of Operations, NYCHA is targeting apartments with the most pressing needs or with multiple open work tickets to reduce the time residents wait for repairs and reduce the number of appointments needed to complete repairs. The NYCHA Safety and Security Task Force has worked for more than a year to make public housing safer and more secure. Fifteen community centers are scheduled to open by the end of 2011. Through its Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES), NYCHA has enhanced several workforce development programs to help residents obtain good jobs and build their savings.

Authority staff continues to work on solutions to address what it learned from residents. These ideas will be shared with residents at upcoming Community Conversations across the City for review and discussion.

"The Community Conversations will be a great way for residents to let their voices be heard," said Citywide Council of Presidents Queens District Chair Ann Cotton-Morris. "I'm looking forward to seeing what the results will be when the Plan to Preserve Public Housing is finalized."